Freeman learning new Bucs offense

Associated Press  |  Last updated June 15, 2012
Josh Freeman walked off the practice field, drenched in sweat and smiling. Tampa Bay's young quarterback is excited about the new offense the Buccaneers are installing and confident the team has the talent to run it effectively. The fourth-year pro welcomes the addition of first-round draft pick Doug Martin and All-Pro guard Carl Nicks to the running game. And he appreciates what receiver Vincent Jackson and tight end Dallas Clark could mean to a passing attack that sputtered during last season's 4-12 finish. Freeman also feels good about the progress he's made working with the men first-year coach Greg Schiano hired to help the 24-year-old realize his potential, offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan and quarterbacks coach Ron Turner. ''For sure, this offense is allowing a lot of guys to step up and shine,'' Freeman said during a three-day minicamp that concluded Thursday. The next time the Bucs convene will be for the start of training camp in late July. ''In this month we have off ... it's going to be crucial that guys stay in their playbooks, that guys get together and work on their crafts because when we get back it'll be full speed,'' Freeman said. Tampa Bay concluded 2011 on a 10-game losing streak that led to the firing of former coach Raheem Morris. In addition to yielding a NFL-high 30.9 points per game and ranking 30th among 32 teams in yards allowed, the Bucs had one of the league's lowest scoring offenses at just under 18 points per game. Freeman's production lagged, too, despite throwing for a career-best 3,592 yards. The 2009 first-round draft pick threw for 25 touchdowns with just six interceptions while pacing a 10-6 finish in 2010. A year ago, he tossed 22 interceptions compared to 16 TD passes. Sullivan and Turner have been working with the quarterback to improve his footwork and decision-making. ''At times, perhaps Josh may have been trying to do a little bit too much. I think he's a very competitive young man,'' Sullivan said. ''He's a very talented player, and coach Turner's done a phenomenal job with him this spring honing in on some specific fundamentals and some of his mechanics. ''We've talked about decision-making and the importance of it within our scheme. ... The bottom line is we can't score if we don't have the football,'' Sullivan said. ''I know that's an over simplification, but more games are lost than are won because people are giving away opportunities.'' Sullivan joined Schiano's staff from the New York Giants, where he worked closely with Eli Manning as quarterbacks coach. Turner has been an offensive assistant with several NFL teams. ''I think physically, he's done a great job this offseason,'' Turner said of Freeman, who's dropped about 15 pounds this offseason and looks trim and fit at about 238. ''And mentally, I think he's hungry. He's eager to learn what we're doing and what we're teaching, and he wants to be good,'' Turner added. ''He wants to get better and he is really working at it mentally and physically.'' From the day Freeman became the third quarterback selected in the 2009 draft behind Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez, the Bucs have stressed that everything they do - whether it be offensively or defensively - is with ''5'' in mind, referring to Freeman's uniform jersey number. That hasn't changed with Schiano replacing Morris and promising to assemble a tough, physical offense that runs the ball, opening up opportunities to throw the ball down the field. ''When you look at the teams that have been able to get to the top of the mountain, they've had great quarterback play,'' Sullivan said. ''It comes down to the player making good decisions, that player being accurate when it comes to throwing the football, it comes down to having leadership.''
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