Every Thursday night, the Bucs' offensive linemen take turns picking a restaurant and eating dinner together. Doug Martin joins them. It's a smart move by the running back, who has been feasting on opposing defenses as the league's second-leading rusher.
"We have a tight bond," said Martin, who rushed for 235 yards against the Eagles last week. "We have a good chemistry, and it's a good thing to have."
On most of his runs this season, Martin has been joined by his offensive linemen, who follow the play after making their blocks to try to peel defenders off him.
"That feels good. It feels like my brothers are coming behind me and getting in on the fight," Martin said. "One guy is getting in the fight, and the other guys are coming in afterward. That's the type of feeling I have."
If you list the reasons for the Bucs' turnaround this season, the offensive line might be at or near the top of them. G Logan Mankins is the only remaining starter from a unit that struggled for various reasons last year. Added to rookies T Donovan Smith and G Ali Marpet were C Joe Hawley and RT Gosder Cherilus.
They share a similar style of being physical and sometimes playing beyond the echo of the whistle.
"It's one thing to do your job and finish off, but it's another thing to chase the ball carrier and let them know that you have their back," Hawley said. "I think that brings a lot of energy to the offense. And when you play with guys that are similar, I think it brings a lot of energy. We're not all the best athletes, but we have fun playing together.
"You can get five of the best offensive linemen in the league and if they don't enjoying playing with each other, they're not going to do anything. It's not all about one-on-one blocks. You've got to create holes, and it's such a team effort. You've got to have the … guy's back you're playing next to and enjoy playing with him and having fun."
STAYING PUT? Martin will be a free agent at the end of the season because the Bucs decided not to pick up his fifth-year option at $5.6 million. Compensation will always be the biggest issue, but Martin said his preference is to remain with Tampa Bay. "I love Tampa. I built a house here, so I love it here," Martin said.
Martin said he doesn't worry about the possibility of becoming a free agent. "That will take care of itself," he said. "I'm just going to go out there and just do my job on the field. If I do my job, everything else will fall into place.
"It's my fourth year here, and I've got a lot of relationships out here, and like I said, I just love Tampa."
WORTH THE GRIEF: Bucs coaches are on record saying they don't want QB Jameis Winston throwing his body into defenders and trying to block. But that didn't stop him from trying to get a piece of Eagles LB Brandon Graham last week on a third-and-1 play.
"I didn't really block on that play," Winston said. "I just kind of got in the way. So that shows you that I'm really learning not to go throw my body in there.
"But, hey, that was third and 1. If it's me and the defensive end, and Doug Martin needs to get 1 yard and I can help him get that 1 yard, I'll take that yelling (from the coaches) every time. Sorry."