Doug Martin and Bobby Rainey are two young running backs learning firsthand how quickly perceptions can change in the NFL.
For Martin, his breakout rookie year of 2012 may seem like a lifetime ago. A season-ending injury after six games in 2013 and another physical ailment slowing him down this year suddenly turns that 1,454-yard, 11-touchdown season into a distant memory.
“It’s a business of, ‘what have you done for me lately?’ ” Martin said Thursday afternoon. “I just want to go out there and prove that I’m that same back I was my rookie year.”
He’ll likely get his chance Sunday in Pittsburgh. After exiting the season opener early and missing the past two contests with an unspecified knee injury, Martin’s back to participating in full at practice.
“The knee’s coming along just fine,” he said. “Full go in practice and I expect to play in this upcoming game.”
Barring any setbacks, Martin will rejoin Bobby Rainey in the backfield in Pittsburgh – Tampa Bay’s other primary runner working to get past some issues of his own.
Also in his third NFL season, Rainey’s battling a bout of fumble-itis that’s overshadowed an otherwise productive start. After putting just a single ball on the ground during his own breakout season last year, one where he took 137 carries and caught 11 more passes, Rainey’s let three get away in as many games this year.
Ball security’s never been an issue in the past, Rainey said, but it doesn’t take long for bad habits to take hold.
“That isn’t something that I usually do,” he said. “So I put more emphasis on it, even in walk-throughs or if I’m just sitting down I’ve got [a ball] – basically getting my confidence back. But right now I know I’m the target and I’ve got to get the target off me.
“It’s easy to go from [doing well] to going down real quick. Real quick.”