- Head Coach Greg Schiano says it will be a "stretch" for Doug Martin to play on Thursday against the Carolina Panthers
- However, the Buccaneers are not yet considering Martin's shoulder injury to be season-ending
- Rookie RB Mike James will step into a more significant role during Martin's absence
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin suffered a shoulder injury in the third quarter of Sunday's contest with the Atlanta Falcons and did not return to the game. On Monday, Head Coach Greg Schiano indicated that Martin would likely not play in the Buccaneers' next game on Thursday night but was not ready to rule out a return to the field this season. "It’ll probably be a stretch for this Thursday; we’ll have to just see," said Schiano. "I wouldn’t go any further than that right now; [we've] just got to wait and see. If it was season-ending, I’d let you know, but I don’t feel that it is right now. We don’t feel that it is, our medical team. We’re just going to play it by ear and go from there.”
The Buccaneers will continue to evaluate Martin's condition to determine the likelihood of the second-year back avoiding the injured reserve list. Schiano said that both functionality in the shoulder and Martin's pain tolerance would be factors in the eventual decision on how to approach his injury.
“I think everybody’s different," he said. "There’s different ways you can handle that injury, and I think we’ve just got to see how it responds to treatment.”
Martin suffered his injury while attempting to make a leaping, twisting catch of a Mike Glennon
pass near the Falcons' goal line. He was hit in the shoulder by safety William Moore while he was still in the air, and he then landed heavily on the ground. He was later seen with his left arm in a sling.
-- RB Doug Martin is the Bucs' leading rusher in 2013
Thursday's game against the Panthers will mark the first one Martin has missed since joining the Buccaneers as a first-round draft pick in 2012. Last fall, he set franchise rookie records with 1,454 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns and finished third in the NFL with 1,926 yards from scrimmage en route to his first Pro Bowl berth. This year, Martin leads the Buccaneers with 456 rushing yards on 127 attempts and has added 12 receptions for 66 yards.
Rookie Mike James, a sixth-round pick in the 2013 draft, appears to be in line to replace Martin for whatever length of time he is sidelined. The Buccaneers also have veteran running back Brian Leonard
on the roster, but it was James who carried most of the load after Martin's injury Sunday, rushing 14 times for 45 yards and also hauling in three receptions for eight yards. Schiano said the the Buccaneers would also look to add another player to the backfield for Thursday's game if Martin is indeed unable to play.
Doug's a great running back, a Pro Bowl running back, and there's going to be pressure on me even trying to fill half of his shoes
James is hoping that the Bucs will have Martin back in that backfield this season but is ready to do what he can to help the ground game succeed in his absence.
"Hopefully he has a quick recovery," said James. "We all know Doug's a tough guy. He's a tough dude and he's going to be back as soon as possible.
"I'm excited. I'm humbled. I know I'm very blessed to be in this position and I thank God for it every day. Doug's a great running back, a Pro Bowl running back, and there's going to be pressure on me even trying to fill half of his shoes. I'm just trying to do what I can to help the team."