There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin after he suffered a devastating shoulder injury in Week 7. However, the smart move for him is to take his time rehabbing before returning to the field.
When the second-year player's injury was first diagnosed as a torn labrum, many believed it might end his season. However, Alex Marvez of Fox Sports 1 indicates the running back could be back this year:
That is obviously a huge range. Fans and fantasy owners are certainly hoping for the shorter option, but that would not be a smart decision for Martin.
Bleacher Report injury expert Will Carroll recently broke down the injury and how the player can recover:
The labrum will eventually need to be repaired, as it will not heal on its own, but if the Bucs medical staff can stabilize the shoulder and manage the pain, Martin will be able to return in as little as two weeks. The range of the recovery period is tentative because they are very early in this process and we don't know how things will progress.
Basically, Martin will need surgery eventually, but he could simply play with a lot of pain until then. He could also re-injure himself if he does not stabilize his shoulder well enough.
That does not seem like a smart plan for a young star on a terrible team.
Tampa Bay's recent loss to the Carolina Panthers dropped the squad to 0-7 on the year. The organization has become such a mess that billboards are popping up around the city suggesting head coach Greg Schiano be fired:
It certainly makes no sense for Martin to rush back from an injury in order to help this sinking ship.
At this point in the season, it is time for the franchise to start thinking about the future. No matter what Martin does for the rest of the year, it is clear that he is a big part of that picture.
The first-round pick had an outstanding rookie season, showcasing his ability as both a runner and a receiver. He finished fifth in the NFL with 1,454 rushing yards, tied for fifth with 11 rushing touchdowns and third with 1,926 yards from scrimmage, trailing only Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson in that category.
Although his start to this year was slower, he still has the ability to be one of the elite running backs in the NFL for a long time.
Of course, this will only help the team next year if he is able to return healthy. That will not happen if he suffers a setback on the field by coming back to the field too quickly.
Meanwhile, the Buccaneers can use the second half of the season to see what they have in Mike Glennon, Mike James and other young players on both sides of the ball. If they succeed, the Bucs will have a foundation for the future. If they fail, the team will get a high draft pick to start building a new team core.
The only thing Martin's return would do is bring a few more people to the stadium, but the general fanbase seems too annoyed at this point for it to make a difference.
The running back would be dealing with a lot of pain while possibly putting his future at risk to help a team that needs a lot more than one person to be competitive.
A quick return would help fantasy owners, but the Buccaneers should hold Martin out until he is 100 percent healthy.
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