Doug Martin’s teammates are eagerly anticipating Sunday’s opener against the Jets when the Little Engine That Could of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers begins his quest to top a glorious rookie season.

The Bucs kept Martin under protective wraps in August limiting him to only three carries in the first two exhibition games. The Pro Bowl back didn’t even get on the field in the final two preseason matchups including a Week 3 game at Miami that featured most of Tampa Bay’s starters receiving extended playing time.

Martin who ran for 1454 yards as a first-round draft pick out of Boise State took a knee to the helmet in the second preseason game at New England that momentarily dazed him but he said he was healthy enough to play against the Dolphins.

“I wasn’t concerned about a concussion at all” Martin said. “There’s weren’t any blackout spots.”

Now Martin can’t wait to come off the shelf and provide enviable balance for the NFL’s No. 9 offense.

“Doug’s a tremendous player” said Bucs right tackle Demar Dotson. “He’s short (5-foot-9) but he’s explosive and he hits the hole fast. You don’t have to hold your blocks long because once he sees the hole he’s gone. Last year he did a lot of stuff on his own. We’d mess up a block and he’d make up for it by making guys miss.”

After finishing third in the league in total yards from scrimmage Martin may put up even more impressive numbers this fall.

He played sparingly on third down as a rookie but Martin is likely to stay on the field on the money down in 2013 contributing as both a dangerous receiver out of the backfield and a willing blocker against blitzers.

“The thing I tell myself is not to look back at last year” said Martin who was chosen at No. 31 in the 2012 draft after the Bucs traded up to get him. “I went out and played hard. I played my butt off for my teammates and the rest took care of itself. Now I want to improve on my route running and my blocking. To be an every-down back in this league you need to pass protect.”

Martin 24 will do most of his damage cradling the football and turning small cracks into long gains.