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.”