The mystery of the missing “Muscle Hamster” continues.

Signed to a $35.75 million deal in the offseason, and coming off a 1,402 are season, second in the NFL, things never looked better for Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin.

A first-half carry against the Cardinals in Week 2 changed everything, as No. 22 limped off the field with what at first was thought to be a minor hamstring injury. Martin spent he next seven weeks rehabbing the injury and missed six games in that timeframe. Since coming back in Week 10 against Chicago, Martin hasn’t been himself, or at least hasn’t looked like the Martin of old. 

Benched last week against the Saints, Martin will sit once again this Sunday when the Bucs host the Panthers in the season finale according to a report by Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.

To make the storyline even more compelling – or strange, depending on your perspective – the Bucs plan on calling up rookie Russell Hansbrough from the Giants practice squad, also according to Stroud.

On Monday during his press conference head coach Dirk Koetter talked about the situation, but said little to help explain the cloud of controversy. 

“Right now I’m not going to say anything about who’s going to play this week because I don’t want to do Carolina any favors as to who we’re going to play,” Koetter said. “Last week, we made a decision for the Saints game based on what I thought was best for our team that week. We’ll do the same thing this week. There’s other decisions like that made every week, just this one was a little higher profile.”

In Martin’s place last week, Jacquizz Rodgers ran for 63 yards, and most likely will get the bulk of the carries again on Sunday versus Carolina.

Of Martin’s $35.75 deal, $15 million was guaranteed, meaning the Bucs would take a cap hit in 2017 if they were to release him. 

Koetter was asked on Monday about Martin’s future moving forward.

“I’m not sure if it should cause it (speculation) or not,” Koetter said. “I don’t really have any good answer for you. That decision was made and I’ll stand by it. And at some point, it will be apparent what our decision will be this week and I’ll stand by that the same way.”

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About the Author: Mark Cook

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, the beach and family time.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 [email protected]
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jme0151
jme0151
5 years ago

If were going to pay him next year then we might as well keep him. Every other year seems to be his thing. Maybe this just motivates him more over off season. A little more OL help ( Sweezy ) might just be the trick.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
5 years ago

This is really puzzling – just a week ago Coach Koetter was strenuously defending Martin’s performance, then without explanation, he benches Martin last week, and now it certainly looks like Martin may be history. What changed over the last week? We can only speculate.

fredster
fredster
5 years ago

This seems very odd. I suspect has more to do with his durability I guess? I mean I’m watching these games and this O line doesn’t open any holes. They just aren’t there. Agree with post above he’s been good every other year so if we have to pay him next year why cut him? Keep him next and draft another RB in later rounds if you really believe he’s the problem more than the O line. Personally I think it sounds dumb on the surface just like drafting the kicker did. Guess will see if they get this move… Read more »

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
5 years ago

This Is strange indeed. There has to be something behind the scenes here. Personally I’m glad Doug is sitting as he’s been useless all year. As for the line, Rogers looked like he was running just fine behind it in the saints game. Doug has lost a step and it’s clearly obvious. He also just can’t stay healthy, this was my problem with him when we resigned him. He injury prone period. I’d trade him for what you can get this offseason and get a rb in the draft. I dare not mention cook for fear of being called a… Read more »

russmillerwy
russmillerwy
5 years ago

I know we’re supposed to blame the player and pat the coach on the back when things like this happen, but I still don’t understand why we send so many future hall of famers to Seattle and New England for inconsequential draft picks. Say what you will about Raheem Morris’s lockout disaster season, but he NEVER had issues like this with his players. I’m starting to think of it as a white coach authority figure problem. Rah went 10-6 onceusing roster talent talent that most coaches later dismissed as garbage. Then we get guys like Schiano and Koetter, and they… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  russmillerwy
5 years ago

So not only are you uselessly speculating, now you want to inject race into a totally speculative comment?

Geesh … that’s one of the dumbest, destructive, most knee jerk comments I’ve ever read on this site.

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
Reply to  russmillerwy
5 years ago

That might be the most ridiculous answer I’ve ever seen to a question. Yes, let’s just bring race into this. Freeman was a terrible QB who had problems outside of football, Bennet is a loudmouth asshat, Blount is polaying well now, but he was dropped by another team after us as well, Talib, needed out of town. He wouldn’t have succeeded here I don’t believe. As for Martin, if you can’t tell that he has lost a step and is always injured, you might have eye problems. But yeah, it’s a race thing, I’m sure you long for the days… Read more »

scubog
scubog
Reply to  russmillerwy
5 years ago

I’ve read a lot of stupid comments on Pewter Report over the years and maybe even made a few dumb remarks of my own, but this inference that somehow a coach’s race is a factor is the pinnacle of idiocy. There are no white, black or brown players or coaches for me. They’re all red and pewter.

plopes808
plopes808
5 years ago

Cutting Martin makes no sense at this point. I get the feeling he never fully recovered from his injury since he doesn’t seem to be moving the same. Rodgers is gaining more YPC but if you look at their running styles, Rodgers is more straight ahead while Martin tries to cut back pretty often. I feel that’s the difference in the YPC between the 2 as both have been playing behind the same sub-par Oline. Gottschalk was impressive at C so I say throw him in there and keep Hawley as a swing G, like we’ve been using E Smith.… Read more »

Horse
Horse
5 years ago

Well if Martin is not completely healthy why not just put him on IR and keep quiet about it that you’re not happy with him. I’m starting to think that maybe there is some friction bewtween Licht and Koetter; afterall licht is the one who have given huge contracts to Dotson, Martin with their injury history.

plopes808
plopes808
5 years ago

According to this article…Hansbrough is being signed to take Brate’s place, not Martin’s. Hopefully this is a good sign that we won’t be throwing away $7 mil next year while he becomes an all pro with another team.

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2666903-cameron-brate-injury-buccaneers-te-placed-on-ir-with-injured-back

scubog
scubog
5 years ago

Coaches are smart enough to play the player(s) they believe will perform the best or risk losing their job. We can only speculate on Koetter’s rationale. I suspect that he has seen enough of # 22 struggling to gain a mere 3 yards and is simply wanting to see if production is any better with Rodgers running behind the same offensive line. It’s an easy comparison to see that #32 has been far more effective. The off season will allow for further film study. I really don’t quite get the pimping of Gottschalk.The guy is no bigger than Hawley or… Read more »

surferdudes
5 years ago

Gottschalk is a joke, the only reason fans want to see him play is because Hawley, and Smith are jokes also. Marpet is already cross training at center, and that move makes sense. You can make a case for an up grade at every spot along our line. Needs to be a priority this off season.