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Muscle hamster to mentor: Raiders' Doug Martin eases into new role

Doug Martin will help guide first-round pick Josh Jacobs and a host of other Raiders running backs a year after he led the team in rushing yards. AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Well, this is certainly different.

For years, Doug Martin was the focal point of an offense in Tampa Bay, an in-his-prime running back with two Pro Bowls and an All-Pro nod on his résumé -- a player who could just as easily run by you as he could run through you.

Even last year, after Marshawn Lynch went down with a season-ending groin injury in Week 6, Martin emerged as the Oakland Raiders' leading rusher.

But two things happened this offseason that made Martin seemingly become a non-factor in the Raiders' plans -- they signed Isaiah Crowell to be the every-down back and used a first-round draft pick, No. 24 overall, on Alabama running back Josh Jacobs.

Afterthought? Martin was downright out of work. Then Crowell tore an Achilles' tendon early in the Raiders' offseason training program and the Raiders cast a knowing glance back at Martin, re-signing a player who had kept himself in great shape, rather than re-upping with Lynch.

Martin is most assuredly atop the Raiders' depth chart at running back as the team enters Week 2 of organized team activities, but he has also taken on the unfamiliar role of mentor as he prepares for his eighth NFL season.

"Yeah, it's not something I'm used to but it's something that I want to do," Martin said. "I've been in the whole spectrum of good-to-bad in this league and if I can teach somebody, if I can teach Josh on what to do, what not to do, how to stay in on the narrow path and just keep his eye on the goal, then I'm here for that. And yeah, I'm grateful.

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"With Josh Jacobs, he's a good kid, good character. You all heard his story, I read up on it myself. I commend him for being as strong as he is, and that being said I came here to mentor, push him, show him that I've been in the league eight years, so I am a vet now. I can't believe it, but that's the case and so I'm here to just be that role model for him. If he has any questions, I'm here for him to ask them. Like I said, he has good character, but at the same time, he looks like he can just run you over, so he's going to be great for the team."

The 5-foot-9, 223-pound Martin, who said his first NFL position coach, Earnest Byner, was his mentor, averaged 4.2 yards per carry (the third-highest average of his career) in rushing for 723 yards with four touchdowns in 16 games (nine starts) last season.

The 5-10, 216-pound Jacobs is fresher, with just 251 carries at Alabama, for 1,491 yards and 16 TDs in 40 games over three seasons. He is Martin's heir apparent.

The Raiders also still have the 5-8, 205-pound Mighty Mites on the roster in Jalen Richard, who tied for the team lead with 68 catches in 2018, and DeAndre Washington, as well as the bruising Chris Warren III, a 6-2, 246-pounder who spent last season on injured reserve with a knee injury as an undrafted rookie.

When Lynch first arrived in Oakland, in 2017, he had Richard and Washington run on the field with him for pregame introductions.

Martin’s mentorship of Jacobs & Co. is still in its infancy so it’s tough to tell yet exactly what it looks like.

And while coach Jon Gruden also praised Martin for his newfound role, he also rattled off his skillset.

"He led us in rushing," Gruden said. "He's a good receiver. He can pick up blitzes. And he's really a hell of a guy."

Quarterback Derek Carr, meanwhile, enjoys having the running back with whom he finished last season, even if he's a college rival. Martin's Boise State Broncos went 3-0 by a combined score of 159-41 against Carr's Fresno State Bulldogs while Carr was on campus.

"We fight about that literally every day," Carr laughed.

"Doug is a guy that, obviously, he has proven in his time in the NFL that he is a Pro Bowl player. He's proven that he works his tail off and all of those things. Whenever you get a guy that every single year continues to prove that, you're like, 'He deserves to be on our team. He should be here.'"

Martin signed a one-year deal with the Raiders with a salary-cap number of $2.02 million and $930,000 in base salary, with just $55,000 guaranteed on May 3, per ESPN Stats & Information.

"When we re-signed him, I texted him that moment and I was like, 'Bro, let's go!'" Carr said. "We literally sent texts at the exact same time because we were both super pumped. He wanted to be here, we all wanted him here and we're super fired up that he's still here."

And as long as Martin The Mentor produces as well as the erstwhile Muscle Hamster did in his prime, the unlikeliest of Raiders re-signings will look like a stroke of genius.

Different, but the same, right?

"If something doesn't go your way, you've just got to stay optimistic and like I was, I was being optimistic with the situation," Martin said. "I knew I was going to be somewhere and do good things, but it's just crazy how things folded out. I wish happy healing to Isaiah Crowell for his Achilles, but like you said, when there is chaos you just make a positive out of negative and you've just got to stay optimistic about it."