Earlier in the season first round pick Josh Freeman, had his work ethic questioned. It was reported, that Freeman had allowed himself to gain weight and amidst swirling rumors that he was not doing all that was necessary, to soak up as much as he could as a pro. Now there’s an article by Damon Hack, of Sports Illustrated that clearly paints Freeman in a different light, more so a football junkie then a loafer, as he was previously described.
Standing before a whiteboard, Freeman would listen as his brother, Caleb, and a neighbor, Nikki Karns, called out terminology from the pages of the Buccaneers’ playbook. Then he’d spring into action. “They’d read it out to me—’O.K., we’ve got R Strong Zip K 6 Falcon X Fade, on one’—and I’d break the huddle and draw the play on the board and draw up the protection,” says Freeman. “Then I’d erase it, wait a second, and they’d go, ‘L Strong Zip K 7 Falcon X Fade,’ and I’d draw that up.”
It was at the time of Olson’s promotion that Freeman started leaning on his home study group, even though he was a backup. When the Bucs named him the starter during their bye week, Freeman’s prep load got heavier. He had the Tampa Bay staff make him a DVD with every game the Packers had played this season plus additional video cut-ups of Green Bay’s third-down defense, base-blitz and nickel-blitz defenses, and red-zone defense.
Six days before the Packers game—an off day for the players—Freeman was at One Buccaneer Place, studying. Two mornings later he beat Morris into the facility and stared at Packers film in the darkened quarterbacks room. Last Friday the rookie walked up to Winslow in the locker room.
“Hey, Josh,” Winslow said. “When are you going to watch [film]?”
“Three minutes,” Freeman said. “Blitz cut-up from Green Bay.”
Winslow: “Yeah, the hot [reads].”
Freeman: “We just need to be on the same page.”
Surely does sound totally different – a night and day flip flopping of what had been floated around earlier this season about Freeman’s study habits. It sounds like a player trying to be the best, he possible can be and doing all the little things necessary to ascend to the top of his craft and be mentioned with other elite quarterbacks, if he continues on his current path with his play on the field and his home based study habits the sky is the limit.
In the same article, there was also another nugget, this one from Bucs general manager Mark Dominik. In which he describes that the Glazer’s are fully on board with the decision to go with the youth movement
In ’96, after Tampa Bay’s 14th straight losing season, expectations were lower and the organization had more time to let a winner blossom. Now, a Super Bowl trophy from the 2002 season—courtesy of Jon Gruden, who was fired along with general manager Bruce Allen last January—sits in the lobby of the team headquarters at One Buccaneer Place, and the pressure to win is relentless. How patient will the team’s ownership (billionaire Malcolm Glazer and his family) be?
“They see what we’re doing,” says Dominik, who last month traded underperforming pass rusher Gaines Adams, the fourth overall pick of the ’07 draft, to Chicago for a second-round pick in 2010, one of 10 selections the team currently has in next year’s draft. “As a general manager you want to hit 100 percent, but you just don’t. Do I see [the next] Warren Sapp on our team yet? No, I’m afraid not.”
The Bucs no longer have Sapp, but they still have a few of his contemporaries, most notably Barber, who against the Packers returned a blocked punt 31 yards for a touchdown. Once a young sprite in the secondary, Barber is now one of Tampa Bay’s remaining ages, along with defensive tackle Chris Hovan (10th year), center Jeff Faine (seventh), receiver Michael Clayton (sixth) and linebacker Barrett Ruud (fifth). “I think it came down to what was going to be our future path,” Barber says. “Was it going to be with Jon and Bruce and continuing to accumulate veteran guys—because it was no secret they liked veteran guys, and they played well for us—or were we going to go young and build this team up like we did in ’95, ’96, ’97 and ’98? Going young and starting fresh with a new coach was what they decided to do.”
It would appear, Dominik and head coach Raheem Morris have the Glazer’s full support – no matter how the season ends – will be given amply time to rebuild the team after a full evalution process of the current personeel is complete.