After losing yet another running back, their fourth in the last seven weeks, during their 43-28 loss to the Falcons on Thursday, the Buccaneers could use a bit of a boost at the position.
It’s possible they’ll get it from their two-time Pro Bowler, Doug Martin.
Martin has been working toward another attempted return from the hamstring strain he suffered in Week 2 and could be back in the lineup for the Bucs game against the Bears a week from Sunday.
“We’re hopeful that after these three days off that maybe he has a shot at Chicago,” Koetter said Friday night on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “But hamstrings seem to linger a little bit. We’ll have to wait and see.”
The potential return of Martin comes in the wake of the loss on Thursday of running back Antone Smith, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury late in the Bucs loss to the Falcons.
Smith was the fourth Bucs running back to go down with an injury this year, joining Martin, Charles Sims (out for the season with a knee injury) and Jacquizz Rodgers (foot sprain).
“I’ve never seen anything like it,’’ Koetter said when asked about the rash of injuries by reporters in Tampa on Friday. “For a one-back team to have four backs go (down) in one year, I have never seen that.’’
It was the loss of Rodgers a week earlier that prompted the Bucs to turn to Smith, who only joined the team two weeks earlier and did not start against Atlanta but carried the ball five times for 25 yards.
Smith also caught three passes for 27 yards against Atlanta, filling the role of third down back while undrafted rookie Peyton Barber replaced Rodgers as the starter.
The attempted return to action by Martin, meanwhile, will mark the second time in the past month that he has tried to come back from the hamstring strain.
Martin was eyeing a potential return in time for the Bucs Monday night game against the Panthers in Week 5 when he aggravated the hamstring during a workout the day before in Carolina.
“These hamstrings are just delicate,” Koetter told hosts Gil Brandt and Alex Marvez. “He was 90-plus percent back and doing his rehab run one day and he tweaked it again. (Bucs trainers) kind of had to go back and start over.”
Martin ran for 1,402 yards last year and gained a total of 1,673 yards from scrimmage, fourth most in the league, before signing a five-year, $36 million contract extension during the offseason.
He got off to a slow start this year, gaining just 85 yards on his first 25 carries, (3.4 per carry) but the Bucs are hopeful he can give not just their offense but their entire team a boost.
After a 3-3 start that included victories on the road at Atlanta, Carolina and San Francisco the Bucs have lost two straight at home and have fallen to 3-5 overall.