When Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter made the decision to bench Doug Martin for the Tampa Bay’s game against New Orleans on Saturday, it raised some eyebrows across the league.
For one, Martin is the team’s starting running back, and two, the Bucs were still in the playoff hunt.
Although Koetter never fully explained his decision for why he benched Martin, the reason became clear on Thursday: Martin has been dealing with some personal issues.
The Bucs running back revealed that he has been hit with a four-game suspension. Rather than appealing the decision, he’ll begin serving it immediately.
“I was notified last week of a four-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy,” Martin said in a statement. “My initial instinct was to appeal the suspension and finish the season with my teammates. However, after numerous discussions with people close to me — including Coach Koetter — I am starting the suspension immediately so I can enter a treatment facility and receive the help I truly need.”
Although Martin didn’t specify the exact reason why he’ll be entering treatment, he did say that he can no longer win his “personal battles alone.”
“On the field, I must be strong and determined to push through both pain and injuries to become an elite NFL running back,” Martin said. “Off the field, I have tried that same approach in my personal life. My shortcomings in this area have taught me both that I cannot win these personal battles alone and that there is no shame in asking for help.”
Martin, who signed a five-year extension with the Buccaneers in March, still has the support of the team’s front office.
“Doug has been a valued member of our organization for the past five seasons and we respect and support his decision to seek help,” Bucs’ GM Jason Licht said in a statement. “Right now, he is working through issues that are much larger than the game of football. Our primary concern is that he takes this time to focus on getting the help that he needs in order to move forward with his personal and professional life.”
The Buccaneers running back has been battling injuries all season and only played in a total of eight games this year. Martin will finish the 2016 season with a career-low 421 yards and three touchdowns.
The four-game suspension means that the Bucs won’t have Martin for the first three weeks of the 2017 season. Furthermore, the team will be able to void Martin’s $7 million in guarantees for 2017 due to the suspension.