ALAMEDA — Three years after his last 1,000-yard season, Oakland Raiders running back Doug Martin is getting another chance to prove he can still be an effective player in the NFL.
Marshawn Lynch’s groin injury and subsequent surgery created a vacancy in the backfield and the Raiders are turning to Martin to fill the gap.
“I feel good, fresh legs,” Martin said Thursday. “I was just making sure that when it was time to go, I was ready.”
A two-time Pro Bowl back during his six-year stay with Tampa Bay, Martin expected to be a major part of coach Jon Gruden’s running game when he signed a one-year, $1.475 million contract with Oakland in the offseason.
The 29-year-old Martin instead has spent the majority of time as Lynch’s understudy, rushing for 99 yards on 27 carries.
That figures to change significantly with Lynch on injured reserve and out for at least two months.
“I’ve been a lead guy since high school, so it was definitely something that was difficult for me,” Martin said of his limited work. “But I’ve got people behind me, in my ear, telling me to keep working hard and keep pushing and your time will come.
“I’m 29, pushing 30, so it’s definitely an opportunity to show the rest of the league and the Raiders and everybody, all my doubters, that I can still play.”
Offensive coordinator Greg Olson doesn’t expect Oakland’s running game to change much despite the difference in running styles between Lynch and Martin.
Lynch is a more bruising runner who powers his way through defenders and often pushes the pile an extra three to five yards downfield, while Martin tends to be more of a finesse back.
“There’s a different style, a little bit, between those two runners,” Olson said. “Marshawn has a package of plays that suit his skills and Doug has a package of plays that suit his skills. They both fit within the system. We’re excited to see what he can do.”
How effective Martin can be remains uncertain. While he will be the primary back this week against Indianapolis, Oakland is also likely to lean more on third-down back Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. Washington was inactive for the first six weeks of the season.
“We think Doug is the feature back,” Gruden said. “He’s ready to go. Jalen Richard has carved out a unique role. We’ll try to get more out of him as we have been doing in recent weeks. To have DeAndre back ... gives us some versatility that we’ll try to use as well.”
Martin rushed for 4,633 yards during six uneven seasons with Tampa Bay. He twice ran for more than 1,400 yards but failed to reach 500 in the other four years while missing extensive time with a variety of injuries.
Those injuries, Martin believes, were both a curse and a blessing. While it forced him to miss 28 games over five years, it also saved a lot of wear and tear on his body.
“I still have a lot of miles left on these wheels,” Martin said. “This is my seventh year in the league. I’m going to go out there and just play like I’ve been playing. I’ve started for about six years so I’m just doing what I do.”
LG Kelechi Osemele (knee) did not practice. Osemele also sat out Wednesday and has not played since getting hurt against Cleveland on Sept. 30. ... Former Raiders players and members of the front office will team up with the San Francisco 49ers on Monday to assemble care packages for U.S. troops overseas as part of Operation: Care and Comfort.