Tampa Bay Buccaneers star running back Doug Martin has been suspended for violating the NFL's drug policy, and is entering a rehabilitation facility.
“I was notified last week of a four-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy," Martin said in a statement provided by the team Wednesday afternoon. "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 (Dirk) Koetter - I am starting the suspension immediately so I can enter a treatment facility and receive the help I truly need."
Martin was a no-show at Wednesday's practice, following Sunday's benching. He'll miss the next four games, including the first three in 2017, all without pay.
“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.
“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.”
On Monday, Koetter defended his decision to bench Martin.
"I'll stand by the defense," Koetter said. "...I made the decision that I felt Jacquizz (Rodgers) would give us a better opportunity last week. Quizz did a good job when he was in there. People can say whatever they want about what Doug would have been. We don't know. He wasn't in there. I'm not trying to confuse anybody. That's not my intent. I'm trying to put the Bucs in the best position to win games."
Martin, who finished second in the NFL in rushing last season, was held out of Sunday's pivotal game against the New Orleans Saints for an undisclosed reason. He'll be inactive for Sunday's season finale against the Carolina Panthers.
"I'm behind him. Doug's a great player," teammate Mike Evans said Wednesday in the locker room. "I don't know what he did, but I'm sure he'll come back and have a strong year next year."
In March, Martin signed a five-year, $35 million extension with Tampa Bay, $15 million of which is guaranteed.
Limited with a hamstring injury suffered in the second week of the season, Martin has averaged just 2.9 yards per carry this season.