After a perfect outing in Miami last week in which he was 4-of-4 for 53 yards and a touchdown, quarterback Josh Freeman had a decidedly tougher night in Tampa Bay’s preseason home opener against Kansas City. The Bucs would win the game, which was blacked out in the Tampa Bay area, 20-15, but the story was clearly about Freeman, who was 2-of-4 for 21 yards before leaving the game following the first series after breaking the tip of his right thumb.
Freeman hit the thumb of his throwing hand on the helmet of Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali. That injury will keep him out of the rest of the preseason.
The early prognosis is that Freeman will resume practicing the week of the 2010 regular season opener and start against Cleveland. Josh Johnson, who was 0-4 in his first four NFL starts last season, will be the Bucs’ starter for the rest of the preseason with Rudy Carpenter as the backup. Freeman finished the preseason completing 6-of-8 passes for 74 yards.
Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris addressed Freeman’s injury after the game.
“It’s a huge setback, to lose your quarterback,” Morris said. “With his injury we expect him back in the beginning of the season. We were fortunate because it could be worse. When I have two quarterbacks that can throw for over 100 yards that makes you feel a little bit better about it as well.”
Morris said that the team expects Freeman to be back on the practice field in time to prepare for the Cleveland game.
“I have to get a feel for when he is coming back,” Morris said. “Right now he has fractured the tip if his thumb on his throwing hand and he is pretty even tempered about it. He will most likely want to come back before I let him come back.”
Freeman described the play in which he injured his thumb, and discussed his frustration in having his preseason come to an abrupt ending.
“It was one of those plays were I dropped back for the progression handled it through,” Freeman said. “It’s one of those things that happens in football. Yes, I hit a helmet. I hit something – not sure what. I haven’t seen the film, but I know it was harder than my thumb. It’s sore and it’s a minor fracture. It’s nothing that I don’t think we can get through and cleared up by the first week.
“It was kind of frustrating because in this game I was suppose to get a lot more reps – throw from 15-20 passes. I was looking forward to it and getting out there and getting a feeling for Mike Williams more and getting to work with Reggie Brown with the game-like atmosphere. But other than that, I can now turn my attention completely to Cleveland and these first few games – just start getting ready for them instead of the Texans and Jaguars. There are different ways to spin it but I am just trying to remain positive.”
Because Freeman got very little work in the preseason, Morris said that he would have to rely on the reps that he took in the offseason and in training camp to get prepared for the 2010 season opener, which is 21 days away.
“You got to be hot, you have to come out hot and ready to go,” Morris said. “That is why we have OTA meetings and mini camp. He is obviously going to lose some reps out there on the field. He worked in the offseason and he should be ready to go.”
Morris was pleased with the play of Johnson, who rebounded from a subpar showing in Miami to complete 6-of-10 passes for 113 yards, one touchdown and a QB rating of 132.5. Johnson led two scoring drives and also rushed for 10 yards on three carries against the Chiefs.
“He made the plays he didn’t make last week, check downs and did all the things that Josh Johnson does well,” Morris said. “He went out this week and just played the game.”
After recording just one turnover on defense in the preseason opener at Miami, Tampa Bay notched two interceptions, a fumble recovery and a key goal line stand on fourth down late in the fourth quarter to preserve the 20-15 victory, the first for the Buccaneers this preseason.
Tampa Bay also recorded two sacks with linebacker Quincy Black notching his first and defensive end Michael Bennett recording his second of the preseason, in addition to forcing a fumble on the Chiefs’ last drive that was recovered by Kansas City. But everything was not rosy for the Buccaneers defense as it gave up 366 yards, surrendering 152 yards on the ground and a 4.5 average. Jacque Battle led the way for Kansas City with 59 yards on 11 carries.
The Bucs had outstanding performances from running back Kareem Huggins, who is staking his case for the backup halfback job behind Cadillac Williams. Huggins rushed for 44 yards on eight carries (5.5 avg.), while Derrick Ward ran for a paltry 11 yards on five carries (2.2 avg.) before leaving in the third quarter with a concussion. Ward had guaranteed a better performance after rushing for 20 yards on 12 carries (1.7 avg.) in last week’s game at Miami.
The Bucs ended the Chiefs’ first drive when free safety Tanard Jackson stripped running back Thomas Jones of the ball. Linebacker Geno Hayes recovered for Tampa Bay at the Kansas City 41. The Bucs took advantage of the turnover to get the scoring started. On third-and-3 from the Kansas City 34, Freeman audibled to a wide receiver screen to Mike Williams, who picked up 16 yards thanks to great perimeter blocks by wide receiver Sammie Stroughter and left tackle Donald Penn. But on third-and-5 from the Kansas City 13, Freeman’s pass fell incomplete, which forced the Bucs to settle for three points. Connor Barth’s 31-yard field goal gave the Buccaneers a 3-0 lead with 11:02 left in the first quarter.
Rookie Javier Arenas’ 54-yard kick return helped get Kansas City have great starting field position at the Tampa Bay 47. Cassel was 3-of-4 for 35 yards on the drive before finding wide receiver Jeremy Horne in the back of the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown on third-and-4. With 6:39 left in the first quarter, Kansas City held a 7-3 lead.
Tampa Bay would answer back with a Johnson-led 88-yard scoring drive. Johnson was 3-of-3 on the drive for 79 yards and also scrambled twice for eight yards. On second-and-6 from the Tampa Bay 47, Johnson hit Spurlock on the sidelines for a modest gain, but Spurlock was able to shake free of cornerback Brandon Flowers and motor 53 yards for a touchdown. With 9:37 left in the second quarter, Tampa Bay regained the lead, 10-3.
Kansas City answered before halftime as Cassel methodically marched the Chiefs into the red zone with a 14-play, 77-yard drive. But on third-and-3, running back Thomas Jones was tackled by defensive tackle Michael Bennett after a 2-yard gain. That brought out Brian Succop for a 28-yard field goal to tie the game 10-10 at halftime. Cassel was 6-of-8 for 63 yards on the drive and finished the game 14-of-19 for 125 yards and one touchdown.
After a 13-play, 76-yard drive, Succop added another field goal, this one from 29 yards. With 1:02 left in the third quarter the Chiefs had a 13-10 lead.
Cornerback Derrick Roberson picked off quarterback Tyler Palko in the fourth quarter and Barth kicked a 36-yard field goal to tie the game at 13-13 with 9:42 left in regulation.
Rudy Carpenter played the entire second half at quarterback for Tampa Bay and threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Terrence Nunn, which gave the Bucs a 20-13 lead with 6:15 left in the fourth quarter.
After a fourth quarter goal line stand with less than two minutes left, the Bucs had to punt the ball back to Kansas City from its own end zone. Rookie punter Brent Bowden was instructed to take a safety with 59 seconds left, which cut Tampa Bay’s lead to 20-15. Bennett’s sack and an interception by cornerback Brandon Anderson thwarted Kansas City’s comeback attempt.SATURDAY’S STARTING LINEUPS
The announced Tampa Bay starting lineup for Saturday’s game was as follows:BUCS STARTING OFFENSE
WR Mike Williams
LT Donald Penn
LG Jeremy Zuttah
C Jeff Faine
RG Davin Joseph
RT Jeremy Trueblood
TE Kellen Winslow
WR Reggie Brown
FB Earnest Graham
RB Cadillac Williams
QB Josh FreemanBUCS STARTING DEFENSE
LE Kyle Moore
DT Gerald McCoy
DT Roy Miller
RE Stylez G. White
WLB Geno Hayes
MLB Barrett Ruud
SLB Quincy Black
LCB Aqib Talib
RCB Ronde Barber
FS Tanard Jackson
SS Sean JonesMISSING IN ACTION
Here is a list of Tampa Bay players that did play in Saturday’s game:
WR Maurice Stovall (sprained ankle)
RT Demar Dotson (undisclosed)
KR Clifton Smith (undisclosed)BUCS IN-GAME INJURIES
Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman left the game following the first series in the first quarter after breaking the tip of his right thumb on the helmet of Chiefs outside linebacker Andy Studebaker. He did not return to the game and will miss the rest of the preseason. Running back Derrick Ward left the game with a concussion in the third quarter after rushing for 11 yards on five carries. Rookie defensive lineman Brandon Gilbeaux suffered a knee injury in the game in the third quarter and did not return.KICKOFF CONDITIONS
The announced attendance for the Buccaneers vs. Chiefs game at Raymond James Stadium was 41,386 although the stadium was barely half full. The kickoff temperature was 86 degrees under sunny skies with 97-degree heat index. UP NEXT
The Buccaneers (1-1) will host the Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) on Saturday, August 28 in Tampa Bay’s third preseason game. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. and will be televised locally on Channel 8 (NBC) WFLA on a tape delay basis on Sunday, August 29 at 11:00 a.m. as the game will be blacked out.
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