TAMPA, Fla. -- After missing the first three games of the season, Buccaneers running back Doug Martin has officially been activated to the 53-man roster and expects to play Thursday night against the New England Patriots.
"I'm gonna go out there and just do the best that I can do, be as ready as I can be, just play for these guys," Martin said. "I'm not sure [how many snaps]. I'm just going to go out there and play to the best of my ability. Whatever that is, it's Coach [Dirk Koetter's] decision, it's what he decides to do. I'm for it."
The two-time Pro Bowler was suspended after testing positive for performance-enhancing substances last year. He began serving his four-game suspension in Week 17.
Several teammates greeted Martin with hugs Monday, including fellow running back Charles Sims. They kept in contact through group chats. He also played some pingpong with a couple of the players and even started to dance.
"He's silly, man. He brings life ... energy," said Sims, who is now in his fourth season playing with Martin. "He is a game-changer. He's not a two-time Pro Bowler for nothing."
Added left tackle Donovan Smith: "Doug is one of a kind. To be able to hit the hole and make people miss in the open field, to have that speed, to get away as well -- he runs a lot bigger than people give him credit for. He's a good back."
He took part in the entire offseason program, training camp and the preseason but was not permitted to practice or be at the team facility. He spent the time in Southern California, at the Proactive Sports Performance training complex.
He had to go to restaurants and sports bars in order to watch the Bucs, who have rushed for 84.7 rushing yards per game this year, 26th in the NFL.
"It was tough, those three games, just watching, but I know they did a good job holding their own," said Martin, who admitted he was on pins and needles Sunday night in the Bucs' last-second 25-23 victory over the New York Giants. "I'm just glad to be back."
He'll take part in a walk-through Monday and one real practice Tuesday. He acknowledged that there are challenges to not just coming back after a long layoff, but coming back on a short week. He's not even sure he'll get to put pads on before the game. There's no real way to simulate that.
"Maybe run into the wall a couple times," he said, laughing.
There is a perk though.
"Fresh legs," Martin said. "That's the best thing about this."