Rewind to last year around this time and CBSSports.com senior writer Pete Prisco was heavily criticizing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for drafting former Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman with the 17th overall selection in the 2009 draft. Now fast forward, to the current date and time and Prisco after mentally reviewing last seasons trials and tribulations of Freeman’s rookie campaign is suddenly uttering a totally different tune.
After watching Freeman start nine games last season, I really believe the Bucs have the right guy to turn their team around. Even though he didn’t exactly light it up, he showed me enough to think he can be special.
After talking to him this week, I’m convinced of it.
There are certain players you talk to that just seem to get it. They are fans of the game. They know the league. They know what they need to do to be a success, unlike a player like JaMarcus Russell, who only seemed to know what he had to do to increase his pants size.
“I just love football,” Freeman said.
You can tell. I could hear the enthusiasm in his voice as he talked about throwing to his receivers during a session this week.
“We get after it,” Freeman said. “It’s just such a good feeling to be out there competing, working on what we need to do.”
Forget that this session was in May. Forget that there won’t be a game that counts for another four months. This is a 22-year-old passer who simply wants to be better, wants to be great, and is willing to do anything it takes.
The Bucs are lucky to have him. I think they’ve solved the quarterback issues that have seemed to plague this franchise for most of its existence.
Fat-cat rookie? Not a chance.
“I know what needs to be done,” Freeman said.
For the season, Freeman had his good moments and his really bad moments. In 10 games, he suffered 18 interceptions and 10 fumbles. If you project that out to 16 games, that’s 29 interceptions and 16 fumbles. That’s way too many mistakes.
But Freeman also had games that impressed. Take his first NFL start. The unbeaten Green Bay Packers lost to the Bucs when he passed for 205 yards and three touchdowns. Or when he threw for 271 yards in Week 16 and helped the Bucs upset the eventual Super Bowl-champion New Orleans Saints on the road.
“That shows we can compete with anybody,” Freeman said. “And we’re going to be a lot better on offense this year.”
Not might be better. But will be better. You have to like that confidence. It’s not arrogance, just a belief in what he can become.
That air of confidence Prisco speaks of is one of those intangables that causes physically average quarterbacks to become great quarterbacks. But with the physical prowess that Freeman possess coupled with his sound work ethic and internal drive he has a chance to become something much bigger, atleast that’s what the Bucs are hoping for.