In fact, Martin's long-term health should be the franchise's top priority, above picking up their first win this year.
According to The Tampa Tribune's Ira Kaufman, neither the Bucs nor Martin have ruled out the possibility of the second-year playmaker returning to the field this season for the NFC bottom-dweller.
Martin suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder in Week 7's loss to the Atlanta Falcons. But instead of shutting it down for the year, preparing for surgery and subsequent rehab, the former Boise State star appears to be in the process of working his way back to the field, per Kaufman:
"Everything is looking good. I’m doing everything the trainer's telling me and it is improving. The pain's decreasing and the range of motion is increasing."
Comments like those can spawn only one question: Why?
What does Martin or Tampa Bay have to gain in 2013? Fantasy football owners may be keen to the idea of Martin returning just in time for fantasy playoffs. But it makes no sense for the franchise to risk the long-term health of its best offensive player in the hopes of salvaging an already lost season.
Plus, it's not like the Bucs were winning football games with Martin anyway.
He was averaging just 3.6 yards per carry and had just one total touchdown before going down. Not to mention Tampa Bay owes Martin several million dollars over the next two seasons, per Spotrac.com.
On top of it all, rookie backup Mike James has been thriving in his new role as the starter, rushing for 242 yards on 52 carries since Week 7. As a result, it's impossible to make the case that Tampa misses Martin's production or is somehow better off with him in the lineup.
How should Doug Martin/Bucs handle his situation?
Martin has only had two runs of 20 or more yards this season after recording 11 as a rookie in 2012. And he only has a dozen receptions for 66 yards, so his absence in the passing game is insignificant.
But let's face it: James isn't going to turn Tampa's season around either. The Bucs have question marks across the board that must be addressed this offseason. Until then, Greg Schiano's squad is poised to flounder.
For this reason, Martin and the Bucs must begin preparations for 2014, and that starts with shutting him down for the year and nursing him back to full strength this offseason.
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