There was plenty of controversy from the media swirling around One Buccaneer Place on Thursday with stories suggesting that one of the topics from a players-only meeting was the legitimacy of the vote-counting by head coach Greg Schiano that resulted in quarterback Josh Freeman not being named a team captain for the first time in three years, and Freeman missing the team photo shoot on Monday because he overslept.
During his press conference on Thursday, Freeman admitted to being absent for the team photo.
“I missed because of a family situation.” Freeman said. “But Monday morning, I was talking to the guys the night before, and I overslept. A position of quarterback is a position of leadership. Obviously, missing the team photo is a big deal, but it’s been fine. The response of the teammates has been cool about it. It’s something I feel badly about, it’s upsetting; but at the same time you have to put it behind you and continue to play this game because the Saints are coming to town.”
Freeman was at the heart of the controversy, and his teammates and his head coach rallied around him, shrugging off his absence from the team photo.
“It’s on every individual here to be on time to everything that you go to,” Bucs right guard and team captain Davin Joseph said. “I’m not saying Josh is late or nothing, but it’s on every individual here to do their job. I think Freeman does a damn good job of doing his job. When it comes to Freeman, I have no complaints. When it comes to Freeman, I’m happy he’s our quarterback and I wouldn’t take anyone else.
“All of us have done it. Have I been late? Yes, to a few things. But that doesn’t make you any less of a man. It happens.”
Bowers understood that Freeman missed the team photo, and suggested that his absence didn’t affect the team’s votes for team captains.
“Things happen,” Bowers said. “I’m not sure why he missed it, but he’ll get on there. That’s why we have Photoshop.
“We had a number of guys that could have been captains with him, Davin, Carl [Nicks] – anybody could have been a captain. It’s just the way the votes landed. That doesn’t sway my vote at all. It was surprising [that Freeman wasn’t a captain], but then you look at the guys that were elected captains and you see the guys that are the true leaders of our offense. Davin being one of them – he is our player rep, and Vincent [Jackson] having been to the Pro Bowl. You can’t argue that those guys shouldn’t be our captains.”
While he said he would have liked to be named a team captain, Freeman has no problems with Joseph and Jackson wearing a “C” on their chests instead.
“I think that Vincent Jackson deserved every bit of it," Freeman said. “I think it’s funny because as much as we talk about me not being a captain, I feel like it takes away from the other guys. We have a team with eight Pro Bowl guys. Do I want to be captain? Yeah, sure, but it’s not something to stress over.”
Bowers said that despite Freeman not being named an official team captain, he’s still a leader for the Buccaneers.
“He’s definitely one of our leaders,” Bowers said. “I don’t think the ‘C’ on your chest makes you any more of a leader than he already is. He’s definitely a leader and we look up to him as a team.”
Freeman was asked about where his head was this season, if the contract talks or anything else might be affecting him.
“It’s maybe somewhere in the back,” Freeman said. “But it’s not something I think about when I’m out at the game and throw an interception and think, ‘Oh man this contract might end.’ I really don’t think like that at all. Like I said I keep whatever’s right in front of me and embrace it.
“It’s to not let things become distractions. No matter what’s going on in your life and everything, the clocks ticking down until the Saints game. It doesn’t matter what we are doing, we know that they, New Orleans, are preparing right now you can’t worry about anything. Just trying to keep everyone focused and keep everyone towards a common goal. It’s really not hard at all, because were all locked in on this moment, and right now that’s going out and getting that win.”
Bowers also responded to the question of Freeman’s off-the-field issues that some have suggested.
“What off the field distractions?” Bowers said. “I’m not aware of any. If I don’t know about them then they are probably not known about. We’re pretty honed in on what we have to do. We are practicing hard and watching film.”
Schiano and a handful of players also responded to reports that the vote tally for captains may have been manipulated.
“If there is a vote tally scandal going on I have no idea [about it],” Joseph said. “I think it’s really a chance to voice some concerns amongst each other, and that can be productive, and also with getting messages to coaches. But really it’s just trying to establish a standard and to have a happy locker room. That’s the number one thing.”
“I was aware there was going to be a player’s only meeting before the game which I’m always fine with,” Schiano said. “I trust the players when the leadership of the team wants to talk amongst themselves I think that’s healthy, I was not aware of any questioning on the captains vote because there isn’t any.”
Finally, both Freeman and Schiano were asked about their relationship and if they trust each other.
“I really like playing for Schiano,” Freeman said. “I’m not just saying that. Coach Schiano takes things to a personal level, it’s not just about the business, and it’s not just about the results. Which ultimately it is, but it’s about the process, it’s about camaraderie, brotherhood, we’ve got our wristbands and the sayings. It’s all about family; it’s all about trusting in each other, and believing in each other and accountability. It’s really refreshing. It’s awesome you know, it’s fun playing for coach.”
“I do trust Josh,” Schiano said. “Josh and I share a lot of things together.”
“Anytime as a coach you’re trying to instill winning habits in your entire football team. In your organization really. The way we cook the food, the way we practice, the way we clean the building we want everything to be at an elite level. When you have mishaps, when you have things where guys don’t do what they’re supposed to do when they’re supposed to do it, does it concern me? Sure it does, but the same guy has done a lot of things when he supposed to do them in clutch situations. Dating back to as late as Sunday. He took the team down and put us in field goal range to win the game.
“So I think everything has to be in balance. I’m not going to allow anything to get us off of preparation for this Sunday’s game. There’s nothing that’s going to do that. The best thing is that our football team is locked in on Sunday’s game. We’ve had two good practices. If it’s an issue outside of this building, it’s not an issue inside of this building.”
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