TAMPA – It was with their fingers crossed that the Buccaneers wrapped up their offseason workout program on Thursday and sent their players away for the six-week vacation that now awaits them.
It’s the same for every team, of course, and the fear they all share is that while they’re away some players might be led astray from their daily workout routine or possibly from making sound off-field decisions.
“Yeah, July is the number one month for issues around the league, traditionally.’’ Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. “But I’m confident in our roster. You can never say never. But I like the makeup of our team.’’
One of the things Koetter likes the most is the makeup of his running back corps, which could prove to be quite dynamic indeed if Doug Martin and Charles Sims can regain their 2015 form.
What the Bucs fear is not having Martin for the 13 games he’ll be allowed to play after he serves the final three games of the four-game suspension he earned last year for violating the NFL’s PED policy.
Martin admitted at the time the suspension was handed down that he was batting a drug dependency issue, and while he has been treated for that and says the issue is behind him, there is still concern.
There is no question that, just as he proved during the offseason workout program, Martin looks like the same old Martin on the field, where he was easily one of the standout players this spring.
The Bucs fear, and it’s a valid one, is that while he’s away from the team and on his own, Martin might fall back into some of his old off-field habits that got him into trouble in the first place.
He wouldn’t be the first to fail in his attempt to defeat whatever demon grabbed ahold of him, but as Mike Garofolo of the NFL Network and NFL.com noted, the Bucs are cautiously optimistic Martin will be just fine.
Doug Martin's return is an underplayed stories this spring. There's a reason why. "It's a process," Bucs GM Jason Licht told me. More here. pic.twitter.com/VCjZWn1kcT
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) June 16, 2017
We noted here early last week that Martin appears to be well on his way to turning in what could be one of the best comeback seasons in the NFL this year and Garofolo’s report confirms that.
There is every reason to believe then that Martin will return for the start of training camp looking just as physically fit and mentally focused as he has been during spring workouts.
But until then, and even beyond, any optimism the Bucs or anyone else might share that Martin will indeed bounce back will always have be tinged with a just a bit of concern.