Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Luke McCown spoke exclusively with PewterReport.com about his reaction to the Bucs drafting Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman with their first-round pick. The Buccaneers traded up in the first round two spots to land Freeman. McCown re-signed with Tampa Bay prior to free agency with the promise of having the opportunity to compete for the starting position.
"I kind of expected it," McCown said of the Bucs drafting Freeman. "They are putting together a group of guys that they want to compete, and that's the way that they feel they are going to go about doing it, so the competition is welcome in my eyes. I have a great opportunity. I'm going to take the bull by the horns. I feel like I showed a lot in the early mini-camp. I'm going to keep it up, and keep competing. Like I said it doesn't matter to me who they bring in. I'm going to do my best to make sure that person doesn't get to play. It has been a long time coming and I'm going to make sure that I do everything I can to make sure I'm the one playing.
After drafting Freeman, Bucs head coach Raheem Morris was asked if he told McCown that the Bucs could be taking a quarterback with their first pick.
"It's already been said," said Morris. "When you sign Luke McCown you give him straight-forward honesty. ‘Hey, Luke, I'm going to create a competitive environment. I'm not handing you anything. Worst-case scenario, I'm drafting a quarterback with the 19th pick. In my office with Luke McCown – we had this conversation. The worst-case scenario for you is your Drew Brees if you become my starter and I have to trade you. But then I get value for you and you get value for yourself. Your Matt Cassel and your contract runs out and I trade you.' He's pretty jacked up, and so is Bryon. They see opportunity."
McCown reacted to the comparison of the Bucs having a situation like the San Diego Chargers did a few of seasons ago with a successful veteran quarterback in Drew Brees, and highly drafted quarterback Philip Rivers waiting to get into the lineup. Brees went on to become one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL for the New Orleans Saints, and Rivers has led the Chargers to the playoffs three straight seasons.
"Yeah, that was the first conversation that Raheem and I had when I re-signed. That is what he was telling me," said McCown. "He said, ‘Look who knows how we will go about nabbing these other guys, and we may draft one in the first round.' He said ‘it doesn't matter because you have the opportunity to play well enough to make our decision, to put us in a Drew Brees and Philip Rivers situation,' I was very comfortable with that. I was glad to hear him voice that to me, and to give me that opportunity to be the starter. I'm going to approach every practice, every rep, every weight lifting session like I am a starter and have that be my mentality and continue to compete."
Morris said the Bucs would bring four quarterbacks to training camp. With McCown, Freeman, Byron Leftwich, Brian Griese, and Josh Johnson the Buccaneers now have five quarterbacks. One of the group will be released or traded, and Griese and Johnson appear to be the most likely candidates to be moved. If Griese is cut or traded then McCown and Leftwich will be the senior quarterbacks on the roster.
Many teams look to veteran quarterbacks to help mentor young quarterbacks, especially first-round picks. McCown said he will have no problem mentoring Freeman, and will do everything he can to help Freeman adjust to the NFL.
"Certainly you know me. I view my role in the NFL as a ministry opportunity. Any time I can do something to help a teammate get better I'll do it," said McCown. "That certainly doesn't take away from my competitive edge either. I'm going to try and help Josh get better. At the same time I'm going to do everything I can to stay a leg up. I would gladly take on a mentor role, and do whatever I can, and teach whatever I could to Josh, and hopefully contribute to him having a successful career."
Since McCown was the first-team quarterback at the mini-camp in early April, the Bucs have signed Leftwich. The former first-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars signed with Tampa Bay on Easter Sunday. Leftwich was with the Pittsburgh Steelers last season, and the Atlanta Falcons the year before that. McCown said that he has been able to get to know Leftwich over the past few weeks.
"Yeah it has been fine," said McCown. "We had a few times, three or four times, to be on the field and throw together. To be in the meeting room, it has been good. We have a good relationship, and we have had a chance to get know each other better. We are going to have a good [quarterback] room."
Tampa Bay has six picks on the second day of the draft. McCown said that he wouldn't be opposed to the Buccaneers bringing in some more weapons, but at the same time felt the Tampa Bay already had a great roster of talent around the quarterback position.
"I think we are pretty good at receiver," said McCown. "For me, we have four proven pass catchers in Jerramy Stevens, Kellen [Winslow], Antonio [Bryant], and Mike [Clayton]. I think we are good as far as that. I don't know if there is going to be enough balls to go around for everybody. We just have so many playmakers on offense. I'll leave it up to our scouting staff, our coaches, and our general manager. They have done a great job thus far of putting together a team. You are asking a quarterback and we can't get enough good running backs, tight ends, or receivers, so I'm always happy for the offense to get picks, but I think we are looking good. We have some good options coming up tomorrow in the draft, so we'll see how it goes."