TAMPA — Doug Martin made a triumphant comeback this season from injuries to regain his rookie form and is closing fast on the NFL rushing title. Gerald McCoy revealed he has played through a torn right rotator cuff and a broken left hand to lead his team in sacks.
Because of their performances and perseverance, the Bucs running back and defensive tackle were named to the Pro Bowl by the NFL on Tuesday night.
McCoy became the seventh Bucs player to be earn a spot in at least four consecutive Pro Bowls, joining a star-studded list that includes Lee Roy Selmon, Derrick Brooks, Mike Alstott, Hardy Nickerson, Warren Sapp and John Lynch.
Martin called McCoy, who has missed only one game this season and leads the team with 7½ sacks, the "epitome of toughness."
"He's been injured, and anybody could've stopped playing, but he didn't because we needed him," Martin said.
McCoy said he had not given details about his injuries because he didn't want them to be used as excuses. He tore the rotator cuff in Week 2 against the Saints, he said, and he missed one game after breaking the hand Nov. 29 at Indianapolis, an injury that required the insertion of a plate and screws.
"I was quoted as saying this has been my toughest year mentally," McCoy said. "I've been playing all year with a torn rotator cuff. I'm not a guy to make excuses. When people say I'm not doing this and I'm not doing that, I never attacked anyone. I just said I need to be better.
"I love this team, and I love this game, and anything it takes to be out there, I'm going to do it. That's just me."
When it comes to redemption, few players can compete this season with Martin, who trails the Vikings' Adrian Peterson by 9 yards for the league rushing lead with 1,305.
In addition to doubts about Martin's ability to remain healthy after two injury-filled years, the Bucs decided not to pick up Martin's fifth-year option of $5.6 million, meaning he will become a free agent at the end of the season.
"I told you guys … in the offseason (that) Doug was a different guy when he showed back up to offseason workouts," McCoy said. "I could tell by how he looked and how he was approaching every day. He was going to be the Doug we know he is.
"He's just been dominant all year, and I'm real happy for him."
Martin's performance is reminiscent of his rookie year, when the first-round draft pick from Boise State earned his first appearance in the Pro Bowl as he rushed for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also caught 49 passes for 472 yards and a touchdown.
But in 2013, Martin's work was cut short when he suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder against the Falcons in Week 6. At the time of his injury, Martin's 456 rushing yards were fourth in the league.
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Martin never regained that form last season. He appeared in only 11 games due to knee and hamstring injuries, and rushed for 494 yards on 135 carries to go along with 13 receptions for 64 yards and two touchdowns.
"It's been a rough two years," Martin said. "I tore my labrum, and I had multiple nagging injuries and couldn't be myself. Everybody is saying, 'Where's the Doug Martin of 2012?' "
Martin credits his close relationship with his offensive line for his success. He bought each member a hoverboard after his 235-yard rushing performance in a win Nov. 22 at Philadelphia. The linemen can expect more gifts if Martin is able to become the first player in Bucs history to win the league rushing title.
"I appreciate them very much," Martin said of his offensive line. "I thank them from the bottom of my heart. It's the best offensive line that has helped blossom me. I say that because of the relationship I have with them and their fight, their willingness to sacrifice their bodies to get a few yards.
"I hope I can get (the rushing title) for them. It would be a great accomplishment."
Said McCoy: "Quote Gerald saying he will get it."
Bucs alternates: Guard Logan Mankins and linebacker Lavonte David were named first alternates at their positions for the Pro Bowl.