Last week, Sam Martin returned to Detroit Lions practice after spending the first six weeks of the season on the Non-Football Injury (NFI) list. Martin injured his ankle in an unknown incident off the field right before training camp and was unable to play during the preseason, landing him on the regular season NFI list. However, it appears Martin will make his triumphant debut this week against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
According to the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett, the Lions will be releasing punter Jeff Locke:
Lions are releasing P Jeff Locke, Sam Martin will return for Steelers game— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) October 24, 2017
UPDATE: The Lions have made Locke’s release official.
Locke was Martin’s replacement after Kasey Redfern was injured in the season opener against the Cardinals. Locke did an admirable job in five games, averaging 45.3 yards per punt with a 42.2 net average.
However, the plan was always to bring back Martin when he was ready. Martin has averaged, over his entire career, 46.9 yards per punt with a 41.7. His play earned him a four-year extension last season, making him their punter for the foreseeable future.
Martin will also, presumably, take over kickoff duties. Last season, Martin kicked off 78 times, 52 of which went for touchbacks.
It was pretty clear Martin was ready to go after posting this Instagram video a few days ago:
As of Tuesday afternoon, Martin officially remained on the NFI list, but he is expected to rejoin the roster once Locke is officially released. (UPDATE: The Lions officially released Locke, but have yet to promote Martin to the 53-man roster. The move is expected to be made this week.)