Bucs RB Doug Martin facing four-game drug suspension
Bucs running back Doug Martin has been suspended four games for violating the NFL's policy for performance-enhancing substances, and the former Pro Bowl standout said he will seek treatment immediately.
"My initial instinct was to appeal the suspension and finish the season with my teammates," Martin said in a statement issued by the team. "However, after numerous discussions with people close to me, including coach (Dirk) Koetter, I am starting the suspension immediately so I can enter a treatment facility and receive the help I truly need."
Martin, 27, was benched last week prior to the Bucs 31-24 loss to the New Orleans Saints. At the time, Dirk Koetter would only say it was a "coach’s decision."
Bucs general manager Jason Licht released a statement in support of Martin's efforts to seek recovery: "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 the time to focus on getting the help that he needs in order to move forward with his persona and professional life."
A suspension like this will have financial ramifications to Martin -- not only will he lose about $1.47-million in salary over the four games, but it can void the guarantee he had on his 2017 base salary of $7-million, leaving the Bucs with no salary-cap hit if they chose to release him in the offseason.
Martin was not at practice on Wednesday and the Bucs said it was an excused absence. In his news conference, Koetter would not address Martin’s situation except to say that the two-time Pro Bowl running back would be releasing a statement shortly.
"Doug was excused today, there’s going to be an announcement coming pretty quick from Doug and then you don’t have to ask me any questions about it. There will be a statement coming from him. It’s close to being ready.
Koetter was asked how Martin’s absence will impact the team on the field or as a distraction. "Zero," Koetter said.
Martin has struggled this season, averaging 2.9 yards per carry, the lowest among all NFL running backs with 100-plus carries. Martin finished second in the NFL in rushing in 2015 and signed a five-year, $35.75-million contract with the Bucs in the offseason.
Martin's absence comes two days after the Bucs signed rookie Russell Hansbrough to their 53-man roster from the Giants' practice squad, move that seemed to be a precursor to Wednesday’s announcement.
The Bucs are suddenly short-handed again at running back as Charles Sims was placed on injured reserve Wednesday for the second time this season. Tampa Bay will have Jacquizz Rodgers as starter against Carolina, with rookies Peyton Barber and Russ Hansbrough as backups.
Bucs players, asked in the locker room Wednesday about Martin's absence, offered their support and hope that he could return to his Pro Bowl levels next season. "Doug's a great player," receiver Mike Evans said. "I don't know what he did, but I'm sure he'll come back strong next year."
Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston said he found out about Martin being inactive too late to talk to him much before Saturday's game, and that he can only focus on what he can control and be there for Martin as a teammate and friend.
"I know we've got a great franchise back in Doug Martin. I'm not worried about his situation," Winston said before practice Wednesday. "I can't speak on that. We've got a lot of players that weren't able to play for us this year, whether it was an injury or a coach's decision. At the end of the day, we've got to find a way to make it happen. That's what I'm concerned about ... I can only do my part to Doug and be there, be his friend, be his teammate and be his quarterback and just check in on him. But everything that's beyond my reach, I can't control."