TAMPA – Short of running repeatedly into a brick wall a few times each day, which he refused to do during his hiatus, Doug Martin says there’s no way an NFL running back can simulate the kind of beating he takes during a game if he’s not actually playing the game.
It’s all but guaranteed then that Martin won’t be as physically ready for the kind of jolt he’s going to take should he be allowed to make his season debut for the Buccaneers when they return to action this Thursday night. But Martin says that won’t keep him off the field.
“I’m ready to go,’’ said Martin, who added that he fully expects to play Thursday when the Bucs take on the Patriots in the first game Martin will be eligible for after serving out the final three games of the four-game suspension he earned for violating the NFL’s PED policy last year.
“I had a good plan out there in California (where I worked out while I was away) and the guys there really helped me out a lot,’’ Martin added. “So I’ll be as ready as I can be, and I’m ready to play hard for these guys and do what I know I can do for them.’’
The Bucs don’t have to rush Martin into the lineup. They’re coming off a game in which Jacquizz Rodgers ran 16 times for 83 yards and the team as whole legged out 111 yards on 23 carries overall. It’s likely, though, that Martin will be in the mix against the Patriots.
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter didn’t speak to the media on Monday, so that belief could not be confirmed, but the team did waive tight end Alan Cross to make room on the roster for Martin, who believes he could adapt very quickly to NFL game speed once he finally does get back on the field.
“It might take me a game,’’ Martin said when asked how long he thought he’d need to grow accustomed to the violent nature of the game. “But I might only need the first drive. We’ll just have to wait and see. I just know that I’m ready to go.’’
Martin said he spent his down time working out in an effort to be as close to game shape as he could upon his return. He said he intensified his workouts on Sundays to get his body used to the increased workload that comes on game day but also spent those days watching the Bucs.
“That was weird,’’ Martin said of watching the three Bucs games he was suspended for. “I was in California so we had to go somewhere to find the game, but they did a good job of holding their own while I was away. I’m just glad I’m back now.’’
The Bucs probably feel the same way. Though they did hold their own without Martin, winning two of their three games, the Bucs are averaging just 84.7 yards rushing per game (26th in the NFL) and 3.8 yards per carry (19th in the NFL).
A two-time Pro Bowler who has twice run for more than 1,400 yards in a season, Martin has the ability to give that running game a boost. It may take a game or two for that to happen, but even in the interim, Martin believes he can bring something else the team might need.
“Fresh legs,’’ he said.