Not much went right for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2009, however Josh Freeman was viewed as a positive building block, after leading the Bucs to three wins in nine starts, in and other wise gloomy campaign that ended with a 3-13 record. Thinking out loud here, of the unenviable situation he faced as a rookie that included (coaching changes, playbook changes, and little rapport with members of the offense, not to mention being the “last resort” behind Luke McCown, Byron Leftwich and Josh Johnson). With his sophomore season quickly approaching on the horizon, year two should offer a much better opportunity for Freeman to get comfortable in his role.
Freeman the 17th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, threw for 1,855 yards and tossed 10 touchdowns as a rookie. Still, fans are skeptical over the selection of Freeman, in last April’s draft. Some even went as far as to rake general manager Mark Dominik and head coach Raheem Morris over the proverbial hot coals for trading up in the first round to secure his services. While Freeman showed tremendous poise in the pocket for a rookie and some playmaking ability, along with the unflappability of a seasoned veteran, he still has plenty to work on, including his accuracy, anticipation skills and decision-making process. Last year, Freeman completed just 54.5 percent of his passes and threw 18 interceptions.
While he showed flashes of what could lie ahead with further work and refinement to his game. Many fans are still disenchanted with the future face of the franchise. The 6-foot-6, 255-pound Freeman, was one of the first players to voluntarily participate in workouts shortly after the conclusion of the 2009 regular season. He has spent a significant amount of time this offseason learning the intricacies of the quarterback position at One Buccaneer Place in the film room and on the practice fields throwing passes to wide receivers.
“I’m taking it very seriously,” Freeman told PewterReport.com. “Last year at this time, obviously the draft had not occurred, but after I got drafted it was a whirlwind. The focus really wasn’t on me per se, it was on who was going to be the guy – Luke [McCown] or Byron [Leftwich]? They were trying to get me some reps and trying to incorporate me, but this year it’s my show. It’s my team and I want to win. I want to get things done the right way. I don’t really feel you do that by sitting around at home. I want to come in and work. I want to be as well prepared as I can be so when we get everybody back from OTAs we can get this thing rolling.”
With Tampa Bay’s offseason workout program getting underway last Monday, and Freeman, who has been working out at One Buc Place long before then. But more importantly, showing the commitment to improve through his actions and not just hollow words, are the signs of a determined, matured player, well beyond his years trying to progress as a signal caller and help the Bucs substantially improve on their 3-13 record. For his critics who thought he wasn’t taking his role as the starter seriously. Freeman suggested his actions and work ethic, this offseason should put that notion to rest and quite some of those so called critics.
“It shows guys that I’m serious,” Freeman told PewterReport.com. “I’m young and I feel like I have something to prove. I think it’s the attitude the team should have. At the same time, I think it’s about playing good football. Back to the leadership point – leadership is something that is really hard for a rookie to be a standout vocal leader on the team. But now that I’m in here and got my feet wet a little bit last year, it’s definitely a big point where I’m going to step up and being vocal and being that guy that stays after and works with guys and tries to get everything squared up.
“Last year at this time, I didn’t know where I was going to play. I was waiting on the draft. But this year, I know where I am going to be and I know what type of system I’m running. I definitely think this is going to be the biggest offseason of my career. I’ve got this whole offseason to get on pace and learn these protections. Last year, we were installing new plays and I was spending some time on the plays and some time on the protections. This year, I want to be the guy that is pointing out all the points and making all the calls and the protections. That takes time. That’s why I’m here right now.”
Members of the organization are thoroughly impressed by Freeman’s maturity level for such a young player – his dedication to improve and his mental aptitude to understand the magnitude of the situation at hand, for such a young and still largely unproven player to show the gumption, when others are goofing off should have a cataclysmal affect on the entire organization.
Based on his actions compared to first-round rookies drafted under the previous regime heading into their sophomore seasons Freeman has what the others seemingly lacked, the “desire” & “willingness” to be great, the unwavering characteristics of a war hardened solider that’s willing to lead the charge and bare the brunt of the entire organization. In a more liberally since, he will be the shoulder of the load, willing his team to victory on Sunday’s.
With his work ethic, desire, willingness, intangibles and the proverbial x-factor on his side Freeman could take a major step in his ascension to stardom in 2010, many fans might even be treated to performances this season by a player in another few years that is commonly talked about with other elitist at his position.
“My drive is … I love winning,” Freeman told PewterReport.com. “I want to win and I realize you have to put in the work. This is not a league where you can get by on talent alone. You have to know what you’re doing. You have to be in there working. You have to get it done. It’s definitely a love of winning – beating Seattle, beating New Orleans, and beating the Packers. There is no feeling like winning in this league.”