TAMPA, Fla. -- One day after Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin made a stunning announcement -- that he'd be taking time away from football to enter a drug treatment facility -- many of his teammates were still in shock. Others said they are still trying to piece together exactly what happened.
"Nobody knew," offensive lineman Evan Smith said. "Nobody is mad at Doug. We don't want anybody to fall on hard times, and if they do, that's kind of a big part of the locker room -- we're a big brotherhood and we all pick each other up."
Martin, a Pro Bowl selection last season, is not with the team as he seeks help and serves a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
"It definitely came as a surprise ... [It's been] very, very hard. It's an unfortunate situation," wide receiver Russell Shepard said. "We just wish him well, [to] get himself together -- whatever he needs, just to take his time. We love Doug. [He's] a great person, a great teammate. We just wish him the best and hope everything works out for the better."
Said tight end Brandon Myers: "We were just like everybody else. We didn't know what was going on. We were surprised. But we support him, that's for sure."
Smith applauded his decision to seek help, saying it's tough to ask for help in a sport predicated on toughness, where athletes appear, as he said, "subhuman" and where the mentality is to "find a way."
"I'm just glad he saw a situation where he needed help and he went and did it," Smith said. "A lot of us in the league, maybe our egos, our personalities, us thinking how we've gotten where we [are] -- we've done it on our own, we've done it through hard work. It takes a big man to step up and say, 'I need help.' Sometimes those issues are bigger than we can [overcome] as a football player, as an athlete. [These] are common problems that people deal with in real life."
Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter called it an "important step" for Martin to focus on his long-term health.
"I don't think any of us can understand what he's going through unless [we've] been in his shoes," Koetter said. "So I don't pretend to be able to understand what he's been going through. The only thing I really want to say is ... I think it's a positive thing that he's taken steps to put himself in position to have better health and a better life long-term."
Some teammates said they learned of Martin's suspension from media reports. The NFL mandates strict confidentiality involving players found to be in violation of its performance-enhancing drug and substance abuse policy. For example, teams cannot disclose if a player is in the league's substance abuse program. The only thing revealed is when a player is suspended, what policy that player violated and how many games he'll be suspended.
"I just hope that he's OK. That's the main thing," Myers said. "If he's good, then everything else will fall into place. But the thing that is No. 1, is for him to get better. He's definitely got the support here in the locker room. Everybody cares about him. He's a good guy. Just whatever he's going through, I hope it comes out alright."
A game ball from Sept. 11, 2016 -- the team's first game of the season and a win over the Atlanta Falcons -- still sits nestled inside Martin's locker. By all accounts, his locker looked as if he'd be walking through the door any minute to prepare for practice.
Instead, Jacquizz Rodgers, whose locker is adjacent to Martin's, had to field questions along with his teammates, many of which they had no answers for.
"For me, I don't know too much about the situation," said Rodgers, who is expected to start again this week. "From what I read, he's taking the right steps in getting the help that he needs. That's all I know. I don't know too much about everything."