The Doug Martin mystery was finally resolved on Wednesday afternoon, when the fifth-year running back admitted that his benching last week was due to a failed NFL drug test and a pending four-game suspension.
Martin wasn’t at practice when the team began prepping for its season finale’ Sunday against Carolina and Bucs officials said he was given “an excused absence for the day.” Obviously, we later found out why after practice ended for the day.
Martin released a statement to the media that reads:
“I was notified last week of a four-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy. My initial instinct was to appeal the suspension and finish the season with my teammates. However, after numerous discussions with people close to me – including Coach Koetter – I am starting the suspension immediately so I can enter a treatment facility and receive the help I truly need.”
The statement continued, “On the field, I must be strong and determined to push through both pain and injuries to become an elite NFL running back. Off the field, I have tried that same approach in my personal life. My shortcomings in this area have taught me both that I cannot win these personal battles alone and that there is no shame in asking for help.
“I sincerely apologize to the Glazer family, General Manager Jason Licht and the entire Tampa Bay organization, my teammates and our tremendous fans. This was not the season I envisioned and I have let everyone down, including myself. However, adversity yields opportunity and I ask for your support in my battle to overcome these personal issues.”
The Buccaneers released a statement in response from GM Jason Licht. It reads:
“Doug has been a valued member of our organization for the past five seasons and we respect and support his decision to seek help. Right now, he is working through issues that are much larger than the game of football. Our primary concern is that he takes this time to focus on getting the help that he needs in order to move forward with his personal and professional life.”
This ends a bizarre public episode, where the Bucs suddenly announced Saturday afternoon that Martin was inactive for the crucial game with the Saints, and head coach Dirk Koetter would not talk about it afterwards.
On Monday, Koetter also went through another bizarre press conference. There, he continued to defend Martin’s running style and yet, said he was doing what was best for the team by playing Jacquizz Rodgers at running back against the Saints, and having others active besides Martin.
We now know what he meant and what he wasn’t saying, as he knew the second leading rusher in the NFL had failed a drug test, and they were all trying to wait and see, if he would appeal.
Because Martin was still on the Bucs roster last week, his absence from the Saints game will not count toward his suspension. That means Martin will also have to sit out the first three games of the 2017 season as well.
Martin is slated to make $7 million dollars next year in the second of his five-year, $35.75 million deal.
Back to the game Sunday with Carolina. The Buccaneers announced more bad news on the injury front. Running back Charles Sims was placed on injured reserve with a pectoral injury on Wednesday shortly after practice began. The team promoting running back Austin Johnson from the practice squad to take Sims place.
It is Sims’ second trip to the IR this season after he landed there with a knee injury in week four against the Broncos. Johnson became the second addition to the Bucs running back corps this week, joining Russell Hansbrough, who was re-signed on Tuesday from the Giants practice squad.
To say the Buccaneer run game is in flux, would be an understatement.