Buccaneers quarterback Byron Leftwich was held out of organized team activities (OTAs) this week with a tweaked groin. The Bucs veteran quarterback said the decision to be careful and not risk further injury was made by Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris.
"I'm all right. I could've went today," Leftwich said.
Morris downplayed the injury as well.
"He got a little (groin) tweak. It's nothing significant to talk about," Morris said. "He'll be back next week. He had a little tweak. We're just holding the safety card and holding him out. It opens up the door for some other people to get some more reps this week and they stood up. It was great."
Next week the Bucs will be holding their final offseason workouts with a three-day mini-camp. Leftwich said he would be fine to participate in those workouts. Leftwich has been competing with veteran Luke McCown for the right to be the Bucs starter at the beginning of the 2009 season.
The quarterback competition is raging on with McCown, and one of the things that Leftwich has over McCown is experience. Leftwich has seen action in 54 games where McCown has been in 12 NFL contests.
"You've got to say it's an edge, because it is experience, but it's all going to be determined in the preseason," Morris said. "These guys have to go out and do it here. We want to see what you have done for me lately? We have to get them out on the field and let those guys go out and compete in training camp and the preseason and be ready to go."
"You've seen why he was a starter in this league. He's come in here and he's had a good grasp of the offense. He knows how to control the huddle. He has some of the intangibles that some of our other guys don't have without that experience. That's what he does bring to the table. He has that ability to have some swagger and to bring some of that stuff from playing that all of our other guys don't have. That's what we've got. We've got a veteran – a young veteran."
Leftwich understands that if he wins the starting quarterback spot, that he will be keeping the position warm for quarterback Josh Freeman. The Buccaneers used their first-round pick on Freeman in last April's NFL Draft. Freeman has been deemed the quarterback of the future for the Bucs franchise. Leftwich said repeatedly that the best playing quarterback would win the starting job, and everything else was irrelevant. He was asked if it was irrelevant that the team used a first-round pick on Freeman.
"I think for the 09 season yes," said Leftwich. "I think it is because like I said who ever the best quarterback is, he will play. That is the only way you can look at it. Anybody here that plays quarterback, we understand that they drafted Josh in the first round and eventually they are going to give him the keys. It is my job to make sure that I'm the best quarterback on the team so they don't give him the keys until later on. That is how you have to look at it to be realistic in this league. I'm going on my seventh year and I understand how it works."
FREEMAN GETS MORE REPS Morris said that with Leftwich out, the number two quarterback repetitions in practice went to Freeman.
"It gave Freeman and Josh Johnson more reps," Morris said. "Those young guys they jumped all over that stuff. When you land in the tub, people are all over your reps. That's just how it goes."
Morris said that Freeman has been improving during the OTAs.
"Just his understanding of the offense and his ability to make better decisions," Morris said. "He's working with a great quarterback coach in Greg Olson. They guy knows the position. He knows what he's looking for. He knows Freeman's weaknesses. He knows his strength. I've seen his footwork get better. I've seen his pocket presence become better. I've seen him move up and not be such a ‘stand there' guy and expect the protection to work for you so much. You've got to help them out a little bit. You start to see the development. You start to see the growth. You start to see the guy move around. You start to see him make throws."
Freeman turned heads in practice by completing a deep bomb in the practice.
"You saw a big-time throw by the young man," Morris said. "That's what we knew he could do. That's what you've got to ask him to do when you get a guy like that. He just had to make a good decision and he made a great decision. It was a big-time throw, a big-time completion and it fired us up."
Freeman has a mentor with Leftwich.
"That is why I try to help him," said Leftwich. "I always tell him that if he needs help with anything I can help him along the way. He reminds me of myself. He kind of makes the same mistakes, that I remember my coaches telling me, is what they are telling him now. I've been there, and been through what he is going through now. I try to help him along the way. I'm quite sure he is anxious to play. I know he is. I know I was ready to play. I know I felt as though when I was a rookie that the only way I was going to get better was if I was on the football field. That is the way I felt, and others felt different. I understand and hopefully he has that mind set, and it is my job to make sure I outplay everybody to make sure I'm the guy."
QUOTE OF THE DAY Morris was asked about the injuries to defensive end Stylez G. White after White sustained a motorcycle accident recently. White's injuries are not serious enough where the team believes he won't be ready for the start of training camp.
"Anytime you get anybody on your team away from your team due to an issue that they can control or can't control you are in a panic," said Morris. "You are always concerned about your team and about your guys. Obviously, I'm really concerned with Stylez. Not just because he won't be here for next week, just because of Stylez's injury."