Doug Martin coming back this week? The mystery continues…

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Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter was pretty chatty regarding the potential return to action of ailing running back Doug Martin during an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio last Friday night.

Not so on Monday afternoon.

Three days after he said he was “hopeful’’ Martin would return to practice this week and play against the Bears on Sunday, Koetter took the Sergeant Schultz (“I know nothing’’) approach regarding Martin with local reporters.

“No information for you guys,’’ Koetter said. “I’m sorry, but we’ll put out an injury report on Wednesday like we’re required to. I get my information from our medical staff. That’s all I can go by.”

Well, those of us in the media go by more than medical reports. We go by what we see and hear and what we saw of Martin and heard from Koetter suggests Koetter’s hopes for Martin playing on Sunday have faded.

Martin was not on the field at all for the 30-minute portion of practice the media was allowed to watch on Monday and while he was seen walking off the field after the workout it was not in a capacity that suggested he’d be playing anytime soon.

Martin was wearing a bucket hat, not a helmet like everyone else that was working out, and he wasn’t wearing the softer shoulder pads the team wore on Monday either, which is yet another sign he didn’t participate in the workout.

Now, it’s quite possible Martin could return to practice Wednesday, but if he can’t participate in a light walkthrough on Monday, what makes anyone think he’s going to be ready for a full contact workout on Wednesday and a game on Sunday?

So who knows? It’s possible Martin is on track for a return to action, but it seems more likely that he’s on pace to miss a sixth straight game because of the hamstring strain he suffered in Week 2.

As for his replacement, that’s clearly up in the air, too. Jacquizz Rodgers did not practice on Monday either and while he said his left foot sprain is “getting better’’ he’s still walking around in a protective boot.

That may force the Bucs to once again lean on Peyton Barber (11 carries, 31 yards vs. Atlanta last week) as their starter, and possibly even force them to promote Russell Hansbrough from the practice squad as one of their backups.

The good news is that Koetter believes Mike James, re-signed a week ago after being waived injured in Week 1, is ready for a bigger role this week than he had last.

“Mike’s a sharp guy,’’ Koetter said. “He did a good job getting himself ready to go last week. I don’t see any reason why he can’t be ready to go on everything this week.’’

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