Donald Penn, one of just a handful of players with seven years of NFL experience on the Bucs roster, talked to the media this week about new head coach Greg Schiano and his thoughts on quarterback Josh Freeman.
The Buccaneers aren’t stacked with a ton of veterans. In fact 2012 could be the third season in a row that Tampa Bay fields the league’s youngest team. While just 29, seven-year NFL veteran offensive tackle Donald Penn is one of the Buccaneers elder statesmen, and said there are lessons to learn from a 4-12 season.
“One thing I did learn – when last year is over – it is over,” Penn said. “It is totally a new year. You can’t think you are going to do the same thing you did last year just by showing up. You have to put in the effort and put in the work.”
Penn thinks the Buccaneers are on the right track with head coach Greg Schiano, and likes what he has seen from his new head coach.
“He (Schiano) doesn’t hide anything, he wants everything upfront,” Penn said. “100 percent real and it seems like he is going to try and do that back to you.”
The former Utah State star appreciates Schiano’s style.
“That is the way I try and live life,” Penn said. “My motto in life is to try and treat people the way I want to be treated. And I think that is what he is trying to give to these young guys. Don’t half-*censored* something if you don’t want the other guy doing it. You have to be on top of your game and you make sure the other guys are on top of their game. And with a young team that is something you need.”
Penn has lined up at left tackle for every game of quarterback Josh Freeman’s career, and knows No. 5 will need a bounce back season for Tampa Bay to be successful. Penn likes what he sees so far.
“I whispered in his ear today, ‘you know you are still my favorite quarterback,’ and he started laughing,” Penn said. “He is getting better. But you have to understand Josh has so much on his plate right now. He is learning so much and is getting so much thrown at him.
“With the offensive line we are out trying to make calls to make his job easier. He is getting so much (thrown) upon him. He is grasping it and doing a good job. He has to take it slow. Sometimes we have to tell him to slow down because he is getting overwhelmed, because he wants everything perfect.
“But right now we are learning and fixing things, everything is not going to be perfect. And he wants everything to be perfect. You have to sit back sometimes and tell him everything is not going to be perfect. We still have time. But we like the way you are working.”
Tampa Bay’s most experienced lineman noticed Schiano telling Freeman the same thing.
“I saw coach Schiano pull him to the side and tell him to keep working hard and doing what you are doing but not to get frustrated with yourself,” Penn said. “They are throwing a lot at him (Freeman) – they are throwing a lot at all of us – and we are trying to respond.”
Freeman ended 2011 throwing 22 interceptions after tossing just six in 2010, and Penn knows the cynics will be out in full force until Freeman proves he is more of the 2010 version of quarterback than the one he displayed in 2011.
That is how it goes,” Penn said. “When you are the top (quarterback) you get all the love and when you are at the bottom you get all the bad stuff. And he knows that. And like I said it is a learning experience. We have to learn from last year. I don’t want that feeling again and I don’t think any of these guys do.
“But Josh handled it well. And that is what he needed to do. It is maturing him and making him a better player and leader to lead us.”
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