Although Monday is Day Four of Tampa Bay's 2011 training camp, it was the first day the players wore pads during practice. Afterwards, Freeman commented to the media about his thoughts on how the afternoon session went.
“The first day of pads is always a fun one,” Freeman said. “You have a lot of energy, a lot of passion. It kind of showed on the goal line period. It was fun to go out there and watch the new guys – Adrian Clayborn, Da’Quan Bowers and our guys get after it with the offensive line.”
The Buccaneers' third-year signal caller talked about the amount of talent on this year’s roster and his comfort level.
“Obviously, you can’t tell in one practice,” Freeman said. “But after the amount of film study and watching and evaluating the different players, and also the scouts, will will be able to tell who is adequate and able to make our roster at the end.
“I feel really set with the guys we have. Obviously, there are still some free agency questions, but right now we have to work with what we have.”
The young Buccaneers players are showing signs of development according to Freeman, and he is pleased with the progress displayed thus far in training camp.
“I’m really happy with the development of some of younger guys,” Freeman said. “The fullback, Erik Lorig, stepped up. We have some new tight ends. We had an unfortunate incident with Luke Stocker, but Ryan Purvis is stepping up and Kellen Winslow, as usual, is playing great. The offensive line is doing great. We have Davin [Joseph] and [Jeremy] Trueblood back. I’m really happy with how the offense is working. You talk about Mike Williams, a guy who is continuing to get better. We have LeGarrette Blount, who is looking better than ever.”
The former Kansas State star knows there are aspects of his game that can improve and it appears he has the right mindset to see it through.
“I’m working as hard as I can to getter better,” Freeman said. “Obviously, practice is a time to try new things you might not have felt comfortable enough last year to try in a game. But I’m just trying to continue to get better and grow as a quarterback and right now in camp trying to help the offense along – the guys that I work with as far as receivers, running backs, tight ends. We are trying to get our timing back down so when the season rolls along we will be ready to go.”
Freeman’s numbers show that his hard work is paying off. At the end of 2010 he finished with 3,451 yards passing after 16 starts as opposed to the 1,855 yards he had in nine starts in 2009. His completion percentage increased from 54.5 percent (2009) to 61.4 percent (2010) and he more than doubled his number of touchdowns from 10 to 25. Freeman’s interception total also decreased greatly from 18 (2009) to only six (2010), and in addition, his overall passer rating skyrocketed from 59.8 percent (2009) to 95.9 percent (2010).
While the team’s offensive leader is working hard to improve his game, Freeman knows the overall offense will also need to get better for the Buccaneers to reach their playoff goal.
“There are a number of things,” Freeman said. “Obviously, none of our [offensive] numbers were where they needed to be and the wins weren’t where they needed to be to get to the playoffs. We are just going to continue to chip away at this and perfect our craft and when we get out in the season with situational football, and that is usually where games are usually won and lost – third down, red zone and where there is a change in possession and loss of momentum.”
The 6-foot-6, 255-pounder knows the Buccaneers are full of inexperience, but with hard work and some additional leadership the sky is the limit.
“We still are really young,” Freeman said. “Obviously, we have guys like Jeff Faine and Ronde [Barber], Guys who have been in the league who have seen it all. As far as being the quarterback, I have to step up and take a leadership role. I’m doing my best to do that. I have guys like [offensive coordinator] Greg Olson and [quarterbacks coach] Van Pelt to help me along. But it really is going great.”
– Victoria Horchack and Scott Reynolds contributed to this report