Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman will have to battle through a painful thumb injury on his throwing hand much the way Brett Favre has done twice in his illustrious NFL career. Favre called his 1999 thumb sprain at the time the "toughest" injury he ever sustained, saying, “It just wouldn’t heal.”
Brett Favre called his sprained thumb during his 1999 season with the Green Bay Packers the worst injury of his career. X-rays revealed that Favre only sprained his thumb at the time and didn’t break it as Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman did in the Buccaneers’ 20-15 preseason victory against the visiting Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday night.
Like Freeman’s injury, Favre hurt his thumb in the preseason on August 23, 1999 when he banged his hand on the helmet of Denver Broncos linebacker John Mobley.
“Of all my injuries, that was the toughest,” said Favre in the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. “It started the exhibition game against Denver and then I reinjured it against Oakland and it bothered me the rest of the year, off and on. One game I’d be fine and the next, nothing.”
In the regular season opener against Oakland, Favre’s hand hit the arm of defensive tackle Russell Maryland, but stayed in the game to rally the Packers for a thrilling 28-24 victory. Favre didn’t miss a game all season en route to his NFL record for consecutive starts, which currently stands at 285 games.
Although the thumb injury didn’t sideline Favre, it affected his accuracy, which dipped from 63 percent in 1998 to 57.3 percent in 1999. Favre also threw 22 touchdowns and 23 interceptions – the first time he had a negative TD-INT ratio since the 1993 season.
Freeman has struggled with accuracy, completing 54.5 percent of his passes in 10 games during his rookie season. Tampa Bay’s 2009 first-round draft pick has worked hard on becoming a more accurate passer, completing nearly 70 percent of his passes during the organized team activities, over 60 percent of his passes in the more competitive training camp and 6-of-8 passes (75 percent) of his throws in the preseason.
A thumb injury to Freeman’s throwing hand will almost certainly negatively impact his accuracy. Although the team is optimistic that Freeman is expected to start the 2010 regular season opener, his thumb likely won’t heal fully in three weeks and will be subjected to getting reinjured throughout the season.
“If you sprain an ankle, it’s three weeks you hobble around and you may be limited in some ways but you play through it,” Favre said after the 1999 season. “The thumb, you’re getting it banged, the ball is slapping it every time you take a snap. It just wouldn’t heal.”
Favre did have a hairline fracture in his right thumb in 2003 after the first seven games, but he was able to play through it and had more success than he did in 1999 when he sprained his thumb. Favre finished the season completing 65.4 percent of his passes with 32 touchdowns and 21 interceptions, but his 3,361 yards was the fewest yards the Green Bay gunslinger threw for since 1993.
The Bucs hope that Freeman can rebound from his thumb injury the way Favre did during the 2003 season when Green Bay rallied to finish 10-6 after a 3-4 start.
“It’s sore and a minor fracture,” Freeman said. “It’s nothing that I don’t think we can get through and cleared up by the first week.”
Bucs head coach Raheem Morris seemed rather dour about Freeman’s injury after the game.
“It’s a huge setback, to lose your quarterback. With his injury we expect him back in the beginning of the season,” Morris said. “I have to get a feel for when he is coming back. 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.”
But when Freeman gets back under center, perhaps against Cleveland in Week 1, will the thumb be fully healthy and can it stay that way throughout the season?
Freeman's backup, Josh Johnson, was 0-4 as a starter last year, and completed just 50.4 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and eight interceptions. On Saturday night against Kansas City, Johnson was 6-of-10 for 113 yards and a touchdown, rebounding from an inconsistent effort the following week at Miami in which he fumbled and threw an interception.
Like Favre did with his thumb injuries, Freeman will have to show the same kind of toughness when he returns to the starting lineup if the Bucs want to have any chance at a .500 season or a winning campaign.
Copyright © 2011 Pewter Report, PewterReport.com and Pewter Insider. All rights reserved. PewterReport.com, the official site of Pewter Report, is an independent source of news and commentary and is not affiliated with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the NFL.