Doug Martin is happy to be home. The veteran running back was born in Oakland and grew up in Stockton, but has spent his professional life across the country. Six seasons in Tampa Bay were a mixed bag, with two dominant seasons and others riddled by injury or ineffectiveness.
That chapter closed on Feb. 20, when the Buccaneers released him two seasons into a five-year contract extension. Martin exceeded 1,400 yards twice, but averaged just 2.9 yards per carry over his last two seasons. He was suspended four games in 2017 for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy, and entered a treatment facility after that punishment.
Martin returns to the Bay Area looking for a fresh start, and believes coming home will help him find old form.
“The past couple of years I just got in my own way,” Martin said. “Being here and having my family around and old friends, it’s definitely going to help me stay busy. I can always confide in them if I need something to talk about.”
Martin believes a readily available support system will help him maintain focus, which is honed on maximizing this opportunity. It came about following a breakfast meeting with new Jon Gruden, where the new Raiders head coach pitched plans for Martin’s career renaissance.
He didn’t come back to the Bay Area with a starting spot. Marshawn Lynch has that locked down, though carries are available working for a play caller known for using multiple backs.
The Raiders haven’t put on pads and won’t until August – it’s tough to evaluate running backs without them -- but Martin looks ready to earn a role. Coaches have been impressed by his work ethic, fluid cuts and explosiveness.
“Doug has really jumped out in this camp,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “His quickness, his ability to pick up the offense and what we’ve given him. That’s been very encouraging. … When you watch him run out here in the drills that we’ve run and the strength and conditioning staff and the things that we’ve been doing there, it just looks like he’s got a real fresh set of legs.”
A return home has helped those legs stay strong.
It’s easy to get in shape here rather than in Tampa. There are a lot of hills over here,” Martin said. “My grandpa he lives on the hills and sometimes I just like to run up those hills when I go see him. That’s definitely and advantage from coming back.”
Martin considers life away from football back in line, and his work has renewed zeal thanks this a fresh start.
Martin isn’t just here for injury protection. A solid offseason could set him up for a significant role. If, of course, he earns it.
“My approach is just basically I’m a rookie again,” Martin said. “I have to prove to the team and the players, coaches that I can be useful on this team. Like I said, I just act like a rookie and go out and play. Play the game that I love.”