Running back Doug Martin is taking reps with the starting offense and working as if he is preparing to play in the regular-season opener at Miami Sept. 10.
But the reality is that Martin will miss the first three games serving the remainder of his suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
The Bucs will go with the committee approach at running back until October, with Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims, Peyton Barber and rookie Jeremy McNichols. But since Martin's suspension, the team has always taken a 'wait and see,'' approach with him, and his return to the team is not guaranteed when he is eligible to come back to work Sept. 25. It's unlikely the team would carry five running backs on the 53-man roster.
"I'm going to approach this like any other season. I will be out for three games. That's the reality of the situation, and during those few weeks I'm going to prepare myself to get my legs back under me and prepare to play,'' Martin said Sunday.
"We've still got to get through camp, and my people and I will come up with a regimen to stay in shape. ... It's my first time doing it. And my last time.''
Martin always has performed well with a carrot in front of him. As a rookie in 2012, he rushed for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns. When the Bucs failed to pick up their fifth-year club option in 2015, Martin was the NFL's second-leading rusher with 1,402 yards and six TDs.
"I got a chip on my shoulder,'' Martin said. "In the off-season, I just worked my butt off. Like I said, I have a lot to owe to this team and I can't wait to get back out there.''