Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman said that despite the NFL lockout, the Bucs offense is ahead of schedule due to the amount of work the players got in during the offseason in voluntary mini-camps and workouts.
Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman arrived at One Buccaneer Place Thursday morning looking fit and sounding eager to get the 2011 season started now that the NFL lockout has ended.
“You always look forward to training camp,” Freeman said. “You don’t like the heat, but at the same time, you are excited to get back. There is a lot of energy in the building and just ready to get things going.
“We play to win and getting to the playoffs will be a huge step for this young team. We are just going to go out and do our best to win them all.”
While the lockout seemed to drag on forever, Freeman didn’t sound like it had much of an effect on his mentality.
“It wasn’t as bad as some people might think,” Freeman said. “Obviously, there was the anticipation of getting the season started on time. We were still active, still working. A lot of the guys made the effort to come down and work out even though they didn’t have to. But we made it work. “
The former Kansas State star, who passed for 3,451 yards and 25 touchdowns with only six INTs in his second season, impressed players and coaches with his play on the field, but also his maturity and leadership both on and off the field. During the lockout, Freeman led the charge of the veteran players in organizing voluntary workouts with his teammates. Freeman feels the little things will pay off this season.
“Me and a number of other guys have stepped up and exuded their leadership skills,” Freeman said. “Guys like Tyrone McKenzie, Davin [Joseph], guys we know that are leaders on this team like [Jeff] Faine. A lot of guys stepped up and did a lot of big things as far as leadership during this lockout.
“We are fine. I have been throwing with the guys, everybody’s in shape, feeling great. I just got out of a meeting with Coach [Greg] Olson and we are feeling great about where we are going with the offense.”
Olson, the team’s offensive coordinator, and Freeman have already met several times since players were allowed back in the building on Tuesday and have begun formulating gameplans.
“We (Freeman and Olsen) went to dinner with [Joseph] last night and had a real long conversation about the offseason,” Freeman said. “The only way we could keep up was through the media where you could check up on what we were doing. We caught up. We talked about plays, protections, motions, shifts – lots of different things. So we got a lot accomplished.”
The rule changes implemented as part of the new collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association shouldn’t have too much of an effect on how the team prepares for the upcoming season, according to Tampa Bay’s top signal caller.
“I don’t think it’s going to be that big of a difference, honestly,” Freeman said. “Looking at the (training camp) schedule, it is really similar to how it was last year. [Head coach] Raheem [Morris] has always been good to us in camp, and I think this year we are going to come out and have a great camp. I’m really excited about the guys we have back on offense. There are piecing together the free agency picture and I’m really excited.”
Part of those pieces Freeman talked about was the contract situations of both Joseph and right tackle Jeremy Trueblood, who are unrestricted free agents.
Those two guys are huge, they are a huge part of our offense,” Freeman said. “They are two veteran guys on this team. Both [are] leaders and it would be great to have those two back.”
Freeman’s relationship with general manager Mark Dominik is strong and he appreciates Dominik including his input.
“We went to dinner with a couple of our free agents last night and he is definitely keeping me in the loop on what we have going,” Freeman said. “As far as our offense goes, we are pretty content with what we have. We have a lot of guys that can go out and make plays and we know we can win with the guys we have. There are obviously some guys in free agency we want to get back, but at the same time we are prepared to move on.”
With a reported $40-50 million dollars to spend to reach the salary cap floor, there has been speculation the Buccaneers are considering re-working Freeman’s contract. The 6-foot-6, 248-pound quarterback isn’t worried about those rumors.
“I’m just playing football and not really worried about the whole contractual deal,” Freeman said. “I’ve got three years left on my deal and I’m just worried about the now, and trying to win games this year. It starts with practice tomorrow, but it’s great to have a G.M. that has confidence in you and the players around you.”– Scott Reynolds contributed to this report
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