Bucs Freeman embraces leadership role
Josh Freeman is the only voice in the Bucs huddle and his communications skills were tested when organizing a three-day minicamp which began Tuesday morning at the IMG Academies in Bradenton.
"For sure, it's the quarterback's job on the team and they voted me captain last year,'' Freeman said. "I take a lot of pride in being a leader on this team and getting together is something you have to do.
"It's a lot, just catching up to guys. They say they'll get back to you but they don't get back to you and you've got to call them up. That happens. But I'm just really happy with guys getting here and working out. I'm really happy with the attendance.''
More than 50 players, including unrestricted free agent offensive linemen like Davin Joseph and Jeremy Trueblood, were in attendance for the first of two-a-day workouts which will conclude Thursday.
Freeman, who led the Bucs to a 10-6 record while throwing 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions in his first full season as a starter, had been working with selected receivers and defensive backs during workouts at the University of South Florida and IMG.
But he wanted simulate a full-squad minicamp that normally would be held at One Buc Place the final week of June. He got help organizing the event from other players such as defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, linebacker Tyrone McKenzie and center Jeff Faine.
However, the morning session Tuesday fell short of replicating what normally would take place if NFL players were not locked out. Instead of Bucs coaches, the players were led by former Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke, who is the director of the IMG Madden Football Academy, and his staff.
The players did not wear helmets or shoulder pads - in fact, some practiced without shirts - and the morning session consisted of mostly fundamental work by position.
"As far as the fundamental drills, it's the same,'' Freeman said. "We do the same stuff. We talk about different plays and different schemes during the season, but it's about the same just as far as fundamentals. But once you get into the film rooms and getting on the boards, it will be a little different without the coaches. But luckily, we have a strong nucleus as far as leaders, guys who know our system inside and out.''
Several rookies, including first-round pick Adrian Clayborn, a defensive end from Iowa, and third-round pick Mason Foster, a linebacker from Washington, also were in attendance. According to Freeman and others, it's the rookies who stand the lose the most from missing the off-season program with coaches.
"It's going to be tough on them, obviously, the drafted rookies,'' Freeman said. "They don't get the OTAs or the rookie minicamps, which is very valuable time. Free agents, man, it's going to be tough on those guys because they don't have a lot of time to make a big statement to these coaches.''
But overall, considering the large turnout and effort by players on Tuesday morning, Freeman was pleased.
"It just says we have a hungry team and going out and winning football games next year is important to all our guys,'' Freeman said. "I know there were a couple guys, their contract situation they don't really know, so their agents advised them to sit it out. As far as I've seen, dude, we have a lot of passionate dudes who made time in their schedule to get out here.
"With the young receiving corps, we've been getting a lot of work, I know Gerald has been getting the d-line together in California and doing a lot of the same stuff. Really, we've got a lot of one-year guys so they know the system, there's not a whole lot of teaching going on. It's just a matter of getting up, working out and staying ready.''