Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman held his weekly press conference on Tuesday at One Buccaneer Place and discussed Tampa Bay’s running game, his interceptions and the upcoming game with the Saints. The following is a transcript of Freeman’s press conference.
How was the time off?
“It was good. It was relaxing. I was planning on going out of town, but I just didn’t really feel like traveling anymore. I don’t know how those guys go to the west coast and stuff – I don’t know.”
What does getting LeGarrette Blount back do for you as a quarterback?
“It's going to be big. If you look back [to] prior games [and] really [to] the prior game last year in New Orleans, Blount kind of went off. He was a big difference maker in that game. From the early game we played them, without Blount really – and the last game – he really kind of took that game over. [He] had some big, explosive games early. It's big to have LeGarrette Blount in any game.”
How big is the ability to have play action and the running game?
“It's huge. A quarterback's two best friends are first the defense and second a great running game. Having LeGarrette (Blount) in there with the way our O-line is blocking is huge.”
How much easier is your work on Sunday with a good running game?
“It helps a lot. You talk about a defense and what they are looking at. If you have a running game rolling and picking up big chunks every time you run the ball with it, [then] those linebackers have to fill that perspective.”
Does a successful running game open up running lanes for you?
“Yes, for sure. When we are rolling it opens everything up. [It helps] on play action. Then you have linebackers turning their backs getting deep. You have defensive linemen trying to stay in their run lanes. Then they see that it's a pass so they are going to try to do whatever they can to get at the quarterback. They push out of the way and that opens things up.”
Did you spend some time looking at tape and the interceptions?
“Yes. I went back and watched all the interceptions and watched all the poor decisions. Looking back, it's really — we were that close. You say that you're that close, but at the same time, really, you just can’t turn the ball over. There are a number of picks on first down in the red zone and, knowing that is completely unacceptable, you look back and we are fortunate to have some of the wins when we turned the ball over in the red zone. At the same time looking back maybe the San Francisco game [and] those two picks — you look back and you probably have at least another win [and] maybe two if you don’t turn the ball over.”
As you get better do you know you can get balls through tight windows?
“Yes. You've got to understand the circumstances. You are never letting the ball go and are like, ‘Oh maybe this one will be an interception.’ You expect things to go well. At the same time you've got to maintain your aggressive mentality, but you can do that within the confines of your game [and] within your confines of the offense. One of our main philosophies is turnover-free, protect the football.”
With the third-down situation someone needs to step up and can LeGarrette maybe do more on that?
“Yes. I think Kregg (Lumpkin) does a really good job at it. We got (Mossis) Madu up this week. Yes, I think LeGarrette is going to get a shot. Talking about it from the preseason [to] moving on with the season, it was a thing that has always been kind of a monkey on LeGarrette’s back and he can do it. He's out there calling out the protections and knowing where he is going and it's huge. You should see the strides that that guy has made.”
Is Mossis Madu a guy that has a little bit of shake to him and really good hands?
“Yes, he's really explosive. Coming out of the backfield he catches the ball extremely well. You guys saw him in the preseason game [and] I think it was Miami when Rudy (Carpenter) had that comeback. [He] got the ball to Mossis (Madu) and he made some big plays down the stretch and we are hoping we can get some of that this game.”
Does facing the Saints two times in three weeks (games) present a different challenge than normal?
“I really don’t think so. They got to play us back-to-back as well like this. I talked to Drew (Brees) before the game we played last week and he was like, ‘This is crazy, how does the schedule get spit out like this?’ They're a team (like the first game), we know this team extremely well [and] they know us extremely well. Like always, it's going to come down to making plays and finding a way to get it done.”
What is your perception of 62 points and then getting beat by the Rams?
“It just talks about the NFL. It's a league with a lot of talent. If you're not coming to play every Sunday – and I am not saying that they were not coming to play – but it's going to be a thing where we know we are going to have to play a great game. The Saints are still a top-tier team in this league. They have a great defense [and] a great offense. We're fortunate that they are in our division and we know them well. They seem to catch a lot of teams off guard — Indianapolis Colts for example. I'm really excited about the opportunity. As always, it's fun to play the Saints.”
Given the turnovers being 4-3 is not a bad position?
“We were talking about that when we were watching the tape (with) AVP (QB coach Alex Van Pelt). He said with the way we've been playing we haven’t even come close to playing our best football. All around, to be 4-3 is kind of a blessing. You know we are 4-3 [and] still a young team [and] still a team with a lot of room to improve. A team that (has) got to continue to improve week in and week out. You can’t take anything for granted. Got to get ready to play. And I'm excited because coming back off this bye week you look at everybody and everybody is prepared. Everybody took home their study sheets. We're out there making our calls [and] everybody is on the same page. It's not like a normal first day of the week where there's still a little indecision. Everybody is all over it.”
This is the time of year everyone has to dial it up, right?
“Yes. This is crunch-time football no matter what your team’s situation is. This week for a lot of teams is make or break. You've got to start looking at games like that. It's no longer the beginning of the season. You're starting to get to the home stretch and we just got to find a way to play well. We found a way to do it last year [and] if we can channel that same sort of energy [and] come out and put together complete football games I think we will be in pretty good shape come December.”