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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

RB Doug Martin excused from Bucs practice

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin sits on the sideline before the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin sits on the sideline before the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La

28

December

Bucs running back Doug Martin, who was inactive for Saturday's loss to the Saints as a healthy scratch, was excused from Wednesday's practice, the Times' Rick Stroud reports.

UPDATE: Doug Martin says he's facing 4-game drug suspension

Martin was benched for Saturday's game, with backup Jacquizz Rodgers getting the nod instead and rushing for 63 yards on 15 carries. 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, a move that would point to one of their existing running backs not playing in Sunday's season finale against Carolina. Martin is not injured, so his absence points to some level of disconnect between Martin and coaches over the decision to bench him for a game that had major ramifications on the Bucs' playoff hopes.

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."

[Last modified: Wednesday, December 28, 2016 4:36pm]

    

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