TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht may have said there's no guarantee running back Doug Martin will have a job when he returns from his suspension, but in quarterback Jameis Winston's mind, Martin is the guy.
"We're playing these games for Doug," Winston said Tuesday. "Doug is out there and he's not taking any reps off. He's out there going hard like he's going to be starting Week 1. That's exciting."
Martin spent the offseason "working his butt off," training six days a week, with the goal of adding speed and becoming more agile and elusive. He cleaned up his diet and cut his body fat two percent to about six percent.
During training camp practices, he's shown the fruits of that labor. He's running hard and low to the ground. His legs look fresh and he's showing great burst.
On Monday, he had an inside run where he completely juked Vernon Hargreaves, zipping by the second-year cornerback for a touchdown in the red zone.
"That pushes those running backs and makes them want to play harder," Winston said. "Because they see a guy that's not gonna be with us the first three weeks, and they've gotta show, 'Okay, he's not gonna be with us. What can I do to fill that void? What can I do to make sure that I don't let him down?' Because we got Doug back."
Martin, a two-time Pro Bowler, will miss the first three games of the regular season as part of a suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. He is eligible to play in the preseason, which kicks off for the Bucs Friday in Cincinnati, but then won't be allowed to practice, take part in meetings or receive treatment at the team facility until the start of Week 4.
Last month, ESPN's Dan Graziano asked Licht if Martin's job will be there when he returns. Licht responded, "It might not. ... Look, he has done everything we've asked him to do, and he looks reminiscent of 2015 when he was playing for his contract.
"He looks the same out there, mentally and physically. So he might be one of those guys that needs a carrot. And he's got a pretty big carrot in front of him right now, because there's no guarantees that he's going to be here. And he knows that. We've talked to him, and he's good with it. He goes, 'I understand.'"
Martin has been splitting first-team reps with Jacquizz Rodgers, and Charles Sims has been handling third-down duties. Peyton Barber and rookie Jeremy McNichols have been working mostly with the second- and third-team offenses. It's a deep group of backs and the team is leaning toward a committee approach to fill the void.
"We have a tight-knit group," Rodgers said. "Doug is a guy who is high-spirited all the time. He's the leader in our room. He works hard out here each and every day, so it's easy to follow a guy like him."