Buccaneers' Doug Martin to enter drug treatment facility
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin has confirmed he will immediately begin a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's drug policy, and enter a treatment facility.
Martin was a surprising healthy scratch in last weekend's loss at the New Orleans Saints. He was then excused from Wednesday's practice, but Bucs coach Dirk Koetter did not give a reason why.
The answer was provided later in the day by Martin, via a statement on the Bucs' website.
It read: "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 team-mates. 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 [Tampa Bay's owners], general manager Jason Licht and the entire Tampa Bay organisation, my team-mates 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."
Buccaneers GM Licht added: "Doug has been a valued member of our organisation 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."
Martin had a breakout rookie season with 1,454 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns in 2012, but injuries hampered him in 2013 and 2014.
He bounced back for his second Pro Bowl season last year with 1,402 yards and six scores, before inking a five-year, $35.75 million contract to remain in Tampa. A hamstring injury this year limited Martin to eight games.
Koetter defended his decision to bench Martin in the 31-24 loss to the Saints, saying he was "trying to put the Bucs in the best position to win games" and Martin did not fit into the team's game plan.
Jacquizz Rodgers is expected to again start at running back for the Bucs (8-7), who still have an outside shot at making the playoffs, in Sunday's regular-season finale against the Panthers.