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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

'Worth every penny' Martin says drive won't change with deal



Doug Martin led the NFL with 906 yards after contact last season, a testament to his strength and effort. It’s something head coach Dirk Koetter, then the offensive coordinator, noticed early on last off-season.

“From the very first day of OTAs to the very last day of the season, every time Doug touched the ball on the practice field, he hit the hole hard, he hit it full speed and he made it like it was a real play,’’ Koetter said. “So when he had success even in preseason games last year, it wasn’t a surprise because that’s how he was looking in practice every day. When he came back last off-season and was working in the off-season program, he definitely had something to prove but he had that mindset and was able to carry it all the way through.’’

Because of that, the Bucs wouldn’t let Martin break away from them as a free agent, wrapping him up just more than 90 minutes before the start of the signing period when he agreed to a 5-year, $35.75-million deal with $15-million guaranteed.

For Martin, 27, who finished second in the NFL in rushing to the Vikings Adrian Peterson with 1,402 yards and six touchdowns, it was proof he could bounce back from two straight injury-plagued seasons and return to his All Pro form as a rookie first round pick in 2012.

“It’s definitely been a journey, having a great season in 2012 and getting injured and being out for the season and having an injuries here and there in the third season,’’ Martin said Wednesday. “But to come back from that adversity and come back last year as strong as I did it definitely makes me proud and I’m glad that it happened that way.

Including Koetter, many believed Martin’s rebound was the result of the Bucs’ decision not to pick up his fifth-year option of $5.9-million for 2016. The contract would’ve been guaranteed against injury.
Whatever the reason, Martin was rejuvenated and reported to off-season workouts nearly 10 pounds lighter and determined to have a great season. In addition to his ability to break tackles, he led the NFL with 14 runs of 20-yards or more.

Will Martin be better in 2016 now that he has a big contact?

“I think it’s going to be better than last year,’’ Martin said. “Everybody says the reason why I did good this past season was because I was out playing for my contract. But if you look to the previous season when I was hurt, we didn’t really have an offensive coordinator. We weren’t really as potent on offense. So this upcoming year, we have something to build on and not much is going to change. If anything, it’s going to get better.’’

General manger Jason Licht said he is confident Martin will continue to stay motivated.

"We wanted to reward him,'' Licht said. "He's earned every penny.'' 

[Last modified: Wednesday, March 9, 2016 6:57pm]


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