Let’s face it. Bucs running back Doug Martin let his team down in 2016.
Not because of an injury, but because of the demons he was fighting that led to him being suspended for the final game last season (and the first three of 2017). While nothing is confirmed, many have assumed that his substance issue was a season long – perhaps even longer – issue, that contributed to a poor 2016 campaign.
The entire organization could have easily turned their back on Martin. But that hasn’t been the case.
In fact, it has been quite the opposite.
First, the team didn’t draft a running back until the fifth round last month. Nor have they released Martin.
The lack of action speaks loudly about what the plans for the upcoming season are. And that is, barring any relapse, Martin will be a Buccaneer this year and possibly for the next few seasons.
But it isn’t just management that is supporting Martin. Bucs’ players have also been complimentary of their teammate and friend.
On Wednesday, star linebacker Lavonte David threw his full support behind his 2012 drat classmate.
“It was great (seeing Martin for the first time this year),” David said. “I was working out here this offseason, and Doug came and as soon as he saw me he ran up to me and gave me a hug. Me, Doug and (Keith) Tandy are the only three left from the 2012 draft class. So we kind of take that to heart and try to have each other’s back. And we are all pulling for Doug. To see him come back, in great shape, smiling and happy, we knew there were no worries. There were no questions thrown out or nothing like that. We know he is back to himself and know he is ready for this upcoming season.”
Defensive end Robert Ayers also spoke of Doug Martin on Wednesday and thinks Martin is in for a special season.
We’ve got Doug [Martin], who I think is going to be a monster,” Ayers said. “People have been talking junk about him like he didn’t just run for, what, 1,500, 1,600 yards two years ago? Second-leading rusher [in the NFL] and people are talking junk about him like he didn’t just do that two years ago. People were saying we were going to draft a running back and I was like, ‘You’re crazy.'”
Even quarterback Jameis Winston had great things to say about Martin on a recent interview on 620 WDAE.
“One name that’s gonna shock…Doug Martin,” Winston said. “He, he looks incredible. The way that he’s bursting, putting his foot in the ground and just being so explosive. I wasn’t really surprised because he is so, he’s a very hard worker. But to see the energy he has been bringing out there to work out day to day has been amazing. It really shows his resilience and how well he has prepared this off-season.”
The Bucs gambled that Martin’s troubles are behind him as they passed on a number of talented running backs including Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon and others, but they did protect themselves somewhat by re-signing Jacquizz Rodgers in the offseason, and also drafting running back Jeremy McNichols in the April draft.
Only time will tell if they made the right decision, but if you ask the organization and Martin’s teammates, so far, so good.
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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