Showing some signs of progress recovering from a shoulder injury suffered at Tennessee, starting quarterback Josh Freeman was able to throw the ball during Friday morning's practice, according to Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris.
“Obviously he will be a game-time decision and we will take it right up until the last moment of truth,” Morris said. “He went out and threw the ball around a bit. He's still limited, but we'll get an opportunity to see tomorrow and even the next day after that.”
“A little progress, obviously, [since] he threw the ball. The first couple of days he didn’t throw it as much. He threw it a little bit yesterday and threw it a little bit more today. So obviously we get a chance to see him throw it a little bit more tomorrow."
While still too early to make a definitive statement of Freeman’s status for Sunday’s home game against the Carolina Panthers, it more than likely will go down to the wire.
“He's one of those guys you take out and [on Sunday morning] let him throw the ball a little bit,” Morris said. “Spin it around and see how far he can go.”
According to Morris, the one person who he can't rely on to determine Freeman’s availability is Freeman himself.
“He won’t tell me, there's no doubt about it,” Morris explained. “That’s why we have to have doctors around. He's one of guys that wants to believe and think like that. Everybody wants to be Brett [Favre]. Brett set a great example for all of these young quarterbacks of what the standard and the model looks like. It's one of those decisions you have to make as head coach.
“You don’t want to do anything that's going to hurt him. We have great, capable doctors, a very capable staff and they will let me know and inform me.”
If Freeman is unable to go, PewterReport.com found several offensive teammates who will have no problem seeing backup Josh Johnson under center Sunday at 1 p.m.
Jeff Faine has seen Johnson since his first day of rookie minicamp in the spring of 2008 and has witnessed the progress made.
“I think regardless of who is under there we will be in good shape,” Faine said. “I think Josh Johnson has all the tools and natural ability to be a franchise quarterback. He has a very explosive arm, he's very intelligent and he internalizes the game very, very well. I’m not concerned at all. We are very fortunate to have him on our roster here. I think one day he will be a starting quarterback in this league.”
Wide receiver Mike Williams also doesn’t appear to have any hesitancy lining up Sunday with Johnson under center.
"He executes just like Josh Freeman," Williams said. "I trust him back there also. I feel like he could start for a lot of teams in this league and we feel good with him back there."
Johnson’s career stats aren’t eye-popping -- 79-for-176 passing (54.1 percent) with four touchdowns and eight interceptions -- but offensive tackle Jeremy Trueblood said Johnson isn’t the same quarterback that started four games in 2009.
“He's a lot more of a complete quarterback now,” Trueblood said. “He has always had the skills and the tools and he prepares himself to be the starter every week and it's very evident. He walks in the huddle and right away he is a leader. We have faith in him.
“I feel like Josh [Johnson] is very cerebral. I think he's athletic, but people think he's just athletic. But he's really smart. A lot smarter than he gets credit for. I tell you what is one of the most impressive things with him is when we're doing our plays and he's five yards behind Josh [Freeman] doing the exact same thing. [Essentially] he has been taking first-team reps the whole time. He shadows what Freeman does.”
Right guard Davin Joseph, who overheard PewterReport.com’s conversation with Trueblood, stepped in to make a point as well.
"And I mean he is smart. He’s been through three different offenses in [Jon] Gruden’s, Jaguars [former offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski], and now Ollie’s,” Joseph said. “He's done well in all of them.”
If Freeman is unable to go Morris told the media Johnson has prepared well for his shot.
“Josh Johnson had a really spectacular week of practice,” Morris said. “We talked about the kid being very motivated and going out there and being really prepared. When we have a week like this and he takes all the reps, you really can see how prepared he really is and how much he really wants it.”