Doug Martin Not Guaranteed to Return as Bucs Starting RB After Suspension

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJuly 30, 2017

TAMPA, FL - JULY 29: Runningback Doug Martin #22 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers works out during Training Camp at One Buc Place on July 29, 2017 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said running back Doug Martin will not be guaranteed a starting spot when he returns from his suspension in Week 4.

"It might not," Licht said, per Dan Graziano of "Look, he has done everything we've asked him to do, and he looks reminiscent of 2015 when he was playing for his contract. He looks the same out there, mentally and physically. So he might be one of those guys that needs a carrot.

"And he's got a pretty big carrot in front of him right now, because there's no guarantees that he's going to be here. And he knows that. We've talked to him, and he's good with it. He goes, 'I understand.'"

Martin, 28, has three games remaining on his suspension for a violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy. He missed the Bucs' final game in 2016.

"Yeah, that's the reality of the situation," Martin said to ESPN. "That's what they told me. I can only control everything that I can control right now—just show up to camp, play hard and show them that I can continue to be that starting back.

"And when the time comes when I come back, we'll see what happens. So it's still in the air. It's still in the air. I'm hopeful, and we'll see what happens. I just show them what I'm capable of doing, and that's 2012 Doug, that's 2015 Doug. And if I do that, everything else will fall into place. So we'll see."

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The Buccaneers plan on starting Jacquizz Rodgers for at least the first three games of the season. Rodgers ran for 560 yards and two touchdowns in 10 games with the Bucs in 2016. He was the team's leading rusher and was far more effective than Martin, who struggled his way through the year with a 2.9 yards per carry average.

Martin rushed for 1,402 yards and six touchdowns as part of a Pro Bowl campaign in 2015. He's made the Pro Bowl in each of his two NFL seasons where he has played a full 16-game season but has been wildly inconsistent and largely ineffective in his three other, injury-filled campaigns.