|National Football League|
Rookie RB Martin having strong camp with Bucs
By FRED GOODALL
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Doug Martin took a pass and cut inside before darting through an opening on the left side and into the end zone untouched.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are only a week into training camp and weren't tackling in practice Thursday, however the rookie running back from Boise State is already showing why the team drafted him in the first round with expectations of impacting both the running and passing games.
"It's a dream come true, everything that I've wanted," the 5-foot-9, 223-pound blend of size, speed, quickness and power that reminds some people, including Bucs coach Greg Schiano, of Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice.
"I'm out here every day trying to show the coaches I'm a complete back. ... I've got to stay consistent, stay in the playbook and hopefully it translates to the games," Martin added. "It's a grind (in training camp), but it's worth it in the end."
The Bucs drafted Martin No. 31 overall and believe he has a chance to become the every-down back the club has lacked for years.
LeGarrette Blount led Tampa Bay in rushing the past two seasons, but the hard-running, third-year pro didn't play much on third downs or in no-huddle situations because of concerns about his ability to handle pass protection.
Martin rushed for 1,299 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior at Boise State. He also had 56 receptions for 643 yards and four TDs over the past two seasons of his college career.
Schiano, hired by Tampa Bay in January following a 4-12 finish under Raheem Morris, coached Rice in college at Rutgers.
And while he's reluctant to compare the two, Schiano said that Martin - at least in physical appearance and running style - reminds him a lot of the Baltimore standout who led the NFL in yards from scrimmage and helped the Ravens reach the AFC championship game last season.
Although Schiano envisions Martin and Blount both playing a lot this season, the coach is confident the rookie has the physical makeup to handle the rigors of being a primary back who touches the ball more than 20 times a game.
"I think what allows him to have a chance is he is a stout guy," Schiano said. "If he was 5-9, 185, I would say not. He's close to 220 pounds, and he's pretty rocked up."
The first preseason game is a week away, so the Bucs have yet to release a depth chart. Martin has been getting lots of work in practice with the first-team offense, yet isn't taking anything for granted.
There could be as many as four new starters on the unit, although Schiano insists he's reserving judgment on the running backs until after they begin working against other teams.
"You look at them in protection, you look at them carrying the ball," the coach said. "But until they have to make somebody miss a tackle live, it's awfully hard to evaluate."
Martin, who rushed for 3,431 yards and 43 touchdowns in four seasons at Boise State, understands.
"Definitely, I can see why that is. As a running back, you've got to be able to break tackles, and we're not tackling out here," the 23-year-old said. "In practice you've got to focus on the details of your position, show the coaches you can stay consistent and play every day. ... It's going to be exciting. I'm anxious to see what happens."
Notes: S Mark Barron, the team's other first-round draft pick, was limited in practice because of a toe injury that Schiano said does not appear to be serious. ... LB Brian Smith was signed Thursday. He spent time last season on Cleveland's practice squad and active roster after joining the Browns as an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame.
Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL
Updated August 2, 2012