Fantasy football fans who didn’t put Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin back in their lineup for his season debut in Week 5 are kicking themselves now.
Martin, a former Boise State star, returned from his four-game suspension (three to start this season, one at the end of last year) for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs looking as though he’d never left.
He ran for 74 yards and one touchdown on 13 touches, averaging 5.7 yards per carry in Tampa Bay’s 19-14 loss to New England.
It was his first regular season game since Dec. 18, 2016.
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“I’ve been away for about four weeks (including the Hurricane Irma postponement) and it was just good to hear the fans and just the crowd noise. Just to be in the element again was awesome,” Martin told ESPN’s Jenna Laine. “It was good to be out there and playing the game that I love.”
Teammates were just as happy to have Martin back.
“That was probably the highlight of today, seeing him in the end zone,” quarterback Jameis Winston told Laine. “We missed him a lot. He toted that ball. The running backs played good, Quizz (Jacquizz Rodgers) came in and he handled his load. ... I think we’re all happy that Doug is back. That put a smile on my face. Thank you.”
And the praise didn’t stop there, according to ESPN.
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter: “Doug looked good. He definitely gave us a lift. He looked fast. Doug, you can tell, he’s explosive. He’s going to help us.”
Tight end Cameron Brate: “I thought Doug did an awesome job. The fresh legs he had — you could kind of tell there, right when he got into the game, he had a couple of big runs. He really lifted the offense. It’s just unfortunate that we couldn’t give it to him more. That’s just kind of how the game went.”
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy: “Oh Douglas, oh Douglas, I love Douglas. We love him. That’s what he (does). You can tell he’s been working out pretty hard. Came back and didn’t miss a beat.”
NFL.com fantasy analyst James Koh insists that Martin is set for a resurgence behind an offensive line that ranks among the top five in the NFL in run-blocking.
“This backfield belongs to Doug Martin,” Koh wrote. “Not only does he look spry and recommitted, the line is doing a terrific job getting push up front for him.”
Tampa Bay plays Sunday at the Arizona Cardinals at 2:05 p.m.