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Dirk Koetter mum on Doug Martin's Week 17 status

The Bucs turned heads on Saturday when they made Doug Martin a healthy scratch.

Coach Dirk Koetter explained Monday his decision to sit the running back for Tampa Bay's 31-24 loss to the Saints, but refused to say if Martin would suit up for the team's regular-season finale against the Carolina Panthers.

"Right now, I'm not going to say anything about who's going to play this week because I don't want to do Carolina any favors as to who we're going to play," Koetter said, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. "As you said, last week, we made a decision for the Saints game based on what I thought was best for our team that week. We'll do the same thing this week."

Koetter did his best to unpack the decision to sit Martin, an All-Pro last season, in favor of fellow runners Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims and the little-used Peyton Barber.

"I made the decision that I thought Quizz (Rodgers) would give us a better opportunity last week and Quizz did a good job when he was in there," Koetter said. "People can say whatever they want about how Doug would've been, we don't know because he wasn't in there."

Said Koetter: "I'm not trying to confuse anybody. That's not my intent. I'm trying to put the Bucs in the best position to win games."

That didn't happen against the Saints, all but wiping out Tampa's chance at the postseason. Rodgers wasn't the primary problem, though, running for 63 yards and a score at a healthy 4.2 yards per pop.

While Martin's benching was a surprise, he wasn't exactly blowing doors down. Sabotaged in September by a hamstring injury that cost him six games, the former first-rounder has averaged a concerning 2.9 yards per tote this season, a full two yards off his 2015 pace.

Still, Koetter defended Martin's play two weeks ago, and did so again on Monday, saying: "I'll stand by the defense. He is running hard and we do need to give him more lanes."

We'll find out soon enough if Martin -- who inked a five-year, $35.75 million contract in the offseason -- will have one final shot to make good in Week 17. If not, his place in the pecking order will serve as a talking point all offseason.

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