People from all walks of life battle addiction and drug issues, but when the person with the problem is a star player in the National Football League, the admission makes the front page. Such is the case for Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin.
The superstar running back was the focus of multiple rumors coming into the final week of the season, a week in which the Bucs had to win – and hope for a few handy miracles – just to make the playoffs. Now there’s some fire where that smoke once was. Martin released the following statement on Wednesday, heading into the final week of the season:
“I was notified last week of a four-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy. 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 …
“On the field, I must be strong and determined to push through both pain and injuries to become an elite NFL running back. 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 …
“I sincerely apologize to the Glazer family, General Manager Jason Licht and the entire Tampa Bay organization, my teammates and our tremendous fans. This was not the season I envisioned, and I have let everyone down, including myself. However, adversity yields opportunity, and I ask for your support in my battle to overcome these personal issues.”
Martin’s statement was conciliatory and apologetic, self-aware and unflinchingly honest, everything this kind of statement should be, when the player involved has the profile Martin has earned. Most Bucs fans likely believe Martin has also earned a measure of grace from the coaches and front office. The guy has helped carry the team on his shoulders as young quarterback and dynamic leader Jameis Winston finds his pro footing. But there’s a lot more in the statement than what Martin says.
The announcement telegraphed something else Bucs fans may not have been ready to accept … yet. The Bucs had given up on their chances this year, and they were looking to minimize the potential damage next season. With Martin out for four games next year, the Bucs could be expected to struggle. And if they went out and got a runner to replace Martin, they could expect a distracting running back battle once Martin returns.
That is if the player ever wears red and pewter again. The Bucs haven’t said what they plan to do in the offseason, and some local sports writers are already saying Martin is done in Tampa. This announcement only added fuel to that fire.
And the Bucs’ response certainly won’t douse any of those flames:
“Doug has been a valued member of our organization for the past five seasons, and we respect and support his decision to seek help. 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.”
That phrasing may mean nothing, but you can bet it will be fodder for Bucs fans and local sports talk – possibly even national sports TV – in the coming weeks. What happens next is anyone’s guess, but the back’s future with the team doesn’t look as secure as it did a few weeks ago.
David Milberg is a financial expert from NYC.