Bucs players "surprised" by Freeman benching
While Bucs players were saying - at least, publicly - the right things Wednesday about supporting the decision to bench quarterback Josh Freeman, it was clear the move took them all off-guard.
"Everybody was very surprised," defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "Nobody was expecting this."
Right tackle Demar Dotson said he was "shocked" and players were putting their "two cents in" before practice. Left tackle Donald Penn, one of Freeman's closer friends and biggest supporters, said it was a "very tough situation," and "felt bad" for the long-time starter. Penn said part of him thinks the rest of the offense let Freeman down.
"It sends a message," Penn said. "Everybody has to step it up."
As opinionated as Penn usually is, he was in a somber mood Wednesday, seemingly biting his tongue.
"It’s a move that we have to deal with," Penn said. "The way I feel about it doesn't matter. We have to go forward. Ain't nobody feeling sorry for us, so we''ve got to go."
Coach Greg Schiano said it was a "huge" decision made as an organization, believing rookie QB Mike Glennon gives them the best chance to win.
"We're going to see on Sunday, right?" Penn said.
Penn, like the rest of the Bucs, praised Glennon, the third-round pick, saying it's not necessarily a step back or a rebuilding project. All Pro guard Carl Nicks pointed to how rookie quarterbacks like Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson were in the playoffs last year. Penn said Glennon is a good "young prospect" with a great arm. WR Mike Williams says Glennon can make all the throws. But it's likely that not everybody in that lockeroom agreed that a change had to be made.
McCoy said when Schiano met with the captains this morning, he invited their opinions.
"I was the one who defended (Freeman) early in the year, so clearly I made it clear how I feel," McCoy said. " But I also always say I trust the guys upstairs and the decision they made. They made the decision and we just make the best of it. They feel like this ist he best way for us to win, so everybody's ultimate goal is to win, and if that's what we’re trying to do right now, then this is the route were going to go."
McCoy doesn't believe the decision will divide the lockeroom.
"We're all we've got in this lockerorom," McCoy said. "When we step across those white lines, the coaches don't go with us, we go. So there's no way we can step across those white lines and compete at a high level and expect to win if we're not together. I think that's clear. So I don’t think you have to worry about any division or the guys starting to point fingers."