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Bucs include Doug Martin in their plans at NFL Combine

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Free agency is approaching, but that doesn’t mean that Tampa Bay Bucs running back Doug Martin is going anywhere.

Speaking at the NFL Combine Wednesday, Bucs’ general manager Jason Licht said he wanted to visit Martin’s representatives while in Indianapolis.

“We’ll be meeting with Doug’s people here. We’ve got a couple of things going for us here on that one,” Licht said. “I know he wants to be a Buc, and I know that we want him to be a Buc. I’m sure there will be some obstacles – there always are in negotiations – but we’ll prepare for either way. I’m optimistic, and we’ll continue talking with him.”

Martin was second in the NFL in rushing this season, but it follows two down seasons, which might make the negotiations trickier.

New Bucs’ head coach Dirk Koetter said that one of the big advantages of the combine was the ability to interview players as part of the evaluation process.

“I think that is real important,” Koetter said. “Maybe the No. 1 thing from a coaching standpoint we get out of the combine is a chance to talk to the players one on one. I think that’s real important. Jameis (Winston) was a great example of that. We weren’t the only team that were doing our homework on Jameis and its great to get those guys, not only at the train station with the coaches one on one, but also with the formal interviews with all the people from your club in there. I think it’s real important, and Jameis did a great job.”

While on the subject of Winston, Koetter talked about ways Winston could improve.

“Jameis did have a nice rookie season,” Koetter said. “I think the great think about Jameis Winston is he always wants to get better. I think it was really fortunate that he was able to go out to the Pro Bowl and spend some time with the top players in the league at every position, and I think all that did was motivate Jameis to continue to get better. As I said, with coaching I believe it with quarterback play as well — experience is the best teacher. So the fact that Jameis has a better idea of what to expect moving forward I think will enable him to continue to get better.”

Koetter and Licht were asked about other members of the Bucs. Licht said that he hadn’t talked yet to guard Logan Mankins, who is considering retirement. Koetter talked about the importance of tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins staying health. And Koetter talked about the chances of the team’s defense under new coordinator Mike Smith.

“Smitty and I have a long history together — we were both at Jacksonville and Atlanta — and we have put together a terrific defensive staff,” Koetter said. “I think we will be a multiple team on defense. I think that’s one of the toughest things for an offense to go against so that’s what we’ll try to do on defense.”

Licht suggested that character would play a large part of the Bucs’ evaluations.

“It’s extremely important,” he said. “You know, I would say 90 percent of the guys that the public deems – or we do – as ‘busts’ in the league, after you draft them, it all has to do with what goes on above the neck. Whether it’s a character issue or a mental issue or football intelligence or just being passionate about football, those are things that we put a lot of resources in to find out about a player.

“You can’t gauge it from them doing skills drills and stuff out there. But you can monitor how they’re doing behind the scenes there. Then mostly when you talk to them face-to-face, look them in the eye, but then also obviously your research that you do, their background work that you do on them.”

Licht talked about the interview process.

“They are coached up on how to do these interviews,” he said. “Just like most of us getting our jobs, we’re coached up how to interview with our bosses. But you can tell when a guy is genuine, usually. You look for some humility, a sense of humor – just being genuine and owning up to their mistakes, if they’ve made some, which most of them have. So, it’s just kind of a gut-feel, between myself, Coach Koetter and whoever is in the room doing the interviewing together.”

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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