Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 7/30/12

TAMPA -- Josh Freeman still is growing as a quarterback. But everywhere else, he believes less will be more.

The 6-6 Freeman lost 20 pounds during the offseason, going from 257 to 237 pounds. Although he wasn't asked to shed weight by the organization, he says it has helped his endurance and flexibility while not limiting his strength.

One year after throwing 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions, Freeman was intercepted 22 times and recorded 16 touchdowns passes last season. The result was a 4-12 record, including 10 straight losses, and a hit to his reputation as one of the league's rising young quarterbacks.

"Last season, a lot of things didn't go our way," Freeman said. "Me personally, a lot of things didn't go my way. But in that, there's a lot to learn from the standpoint of trying to step out of the system, trying to make too many plays, trying to do things when in actuality, as a quarterback, the offense is going to get you there. You just have to man the ship."

Shortly after the 2011 season ended, between the firing of coach Raheem Morris and the hiring of Greg Schiano, Freeman said he decided to rededicate himself to his craft. The first step was getting into the best physical condition on his life. In addition to cutting out the late-night runs to Taco Bell, Freeman hooked up with Grant Gregory, the former Kansas State and Tampa Bay Storm quarterback who worked as a trainer in Harbour Island.

Gregory, who is described by Freeman as a guy who is always carrying Tupperware 'with vegetables, chicken, all that stuff,' taught Freeman how to eat properly. That combined with the workout regimen put in place by Bucs strength and conditioning coach Jay Butler enabled Freeman to go from 257 pounds to 237 pounds.

"You know, it was a number of lifestyle changes," Freeman said. "It's interesting because after the season last year, the time in between coaches, I had a good discussion with (former offensive coordinator) Greg Olson and we talked about a number of things, one of which was trying to be at your best, trying to be a pro at everything, not just football, but in your life, lifestyle habits. Being young, you could eat whatever you wanted and do whatever. I wanted to take the steps and be excellent with my diet, with exercise, with working out year round.

"Everybody is like, "Oh, did you get faster? Did you lose a little strength? No, really, I can't say I got noticeably faster. I can't say I got noticeably stronger or weaker. But I feel good. Flexibility, throwing the ball ... I feel physically great."

Freeman's decline last season mirrored that of the defense, which yielded a club-record 494 points. Receiver Mike Williams was among the league leaders in dropped passes and the Bucs struggled to run the football.

"Last year, we had a lot of breakdowns in a lot of areas," guard Davin Joseph said. "Up front, I didn't feel we played good enough to help Josh. There were a lot of players who could've done better for Josh. We like to focus in on the quarterback a lot. You give him all the praise when he wins, all the bad when the team loses. But we forget it's a team sport. We need all the offense and the defense to play well for Josh to play well. It's not a one-man show."

This offseason, the Bucs filled a grocery list of needs on offense for Freeman, starting with the signing of Chargers free-agent receiver Vincent Jackson, Saints guard Carl Nicks and selecting Boise State running back Doug Martin in the first round of the draft to add to the Bucs' returning weapons.

"He has a bad taste in his mouth about last year and has a focus about him," offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said. "There's a look in his eye that's kind of similar to the look in Eli Manning's eye as far as having a bad year and hearing some criticism and wanting to put that behind him and move forward. He's putting in the time, he's putting in the work and progressing nicely and getting into a good rhythm with his receivers and developing a command of the offense."

How big of a year is this for Freeman? His contract runs through 2013, meaning both he and the Bucs would like to work toward an extension. That's the real skinny.

"Each year, you constantly learn and grow," Freeman said. "That's what I've got to keep doing this year, finding ways whether it be in practice, in preparation, in footwork, throwing the ball -- constantly trying to improve."

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