Bucs RB Doug Martin says he is 'stronger person' after drug rehab

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin broke his silence Thursday, speaking publicly for the first time since leaving the team in Week 16 to enter a drug treatment program.

"It was a journey of self-development," Martin said. "It was definitely hard being away from my friends and family. I found strength in the people I was with around the time. It was definitely worth it. I definitely turned a negative into a positive and I'm out here and I'm definitely a stronger person because of it."

"I had a lot of support with my teammates, with Jameis and Gerald. They did a good job of rallying behind me, coach [Dirk Koetter] and [GM] Jason [Licht] as well -- I'd like to thank them for standing behind me and for the support of the fans."

Martin would not name the substance he took that led to a four-game suspension by the NFL, nor would he disclose the length of his stay in rehab. However, he said he believes his struggles are behind him and that he's ready to tackle not just football, but the responsibilities of everyday life.

"They prepared me for it," Martin said of his treatment program. "Everything I'm dealing with right now is a piece of cake right now."

Physically, Martin looks very strong in practices. He looks fit and shows good burst. Licht said Martin is in the best shape physically since he's been in Tampa, but the team must be patient and temper expectations.

"We have a ways to go," Koetter said. "We've got to get through preseason games, Doug's got to stay healthy. There's more things that have to happen. Time is on our side. I know everyone is anxious. ... There's just nothing to know right now."

"I think from my own experience, when Doug is practicing like this -- when he's finishing plays, when he's got that burst, that pep in his step -- it's carried over to the field."