Bucs GM Dominik: Goal to let Freeman sit and learn
If Bucs general manager Mark Dominik has his way, rookie Josh Freeman will not be the starting quarterback this season.
Not right away, at least.
"The ultimate goal is to let Josh Freeman sit back and learn,'' Dominik said Saturday.
A few weeks ago, Dominik, coach Raheem Morris, quarterbacks coach Greg Olson and pro scouting coordinator Doug Williams met and decided to re-evaluate Freeman one week into training camp to determine if they should accelerate his progress.
Olson suggested that at his current pace, Freeman might begin the season as the Bucs' starting quarterback.
Dominik hasn't completely ruled it out, but it's clear the plan is not to rush Freeman into the huddle.
"I still think he's a 21-year-old quarterback who came out as a true junior,'' Dominik said of Freeman. "You'd like for him to grow and mature into his role and not be forced into it.''
Dominik said he frequently meets with position coaches to evaluate the progress of players, particularly the development of rookies.
The first order of business is to reach an agreement on a contract with Freeman, the 17th overall pick in the draft.
Making matters easier for the Bucs is that Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was selected 18th overall a year ago. Flacco signed a 5-year, $30-million deal with $8.5-million to sign. Dominik said he plans to begin talks in early July and doesn't anticipate a problem getting Freeman under contract by the time the team reports to training camp July 31.
Dominik said the race between veterans Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich is extremely close and indicated a decision might not be made until the end of the preseason.
"It should be very wide open,'' Dominik said. "The competition still is ongoing. The important thing about what they did in the OTA's as a group is that they got a foundation of the offense and showed an ability to grasp it mentally and then go out and operate it on the field. That's why we're anxious to put the pads on and see how they do in the (preseason) games.''
There are other issues facing Dominik and the Bucs between now and the start of training camp.
Dominik said he expects linebacker Barrett Ruud to report on time. Ruud missed all 14 OTA's in an attempt to draw attention to his need for a contract extension. Dominik maintained his policy of not publicly discussing negotiations.
Ruud did attend the team's mandatory minicamp.
"You saw some little things (he missed), but his instincts took over,'' Dominik said of Ruud. "Barrett is a very smart football player. He can pick it up on a chalkboard. A lot of players have to do it on the field. His coaches did a nice job of keeping him up to date with what we were doing.''
Finally, Dominik indicated the Bucs have no interest in signing former Giants receiver Plaxico Burress at this time. The Bucs are looking for receviers to back up starters Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton.
"We're going to let Brian Clark, Maurice Stovall and even Dexter Jackson compete and go from there,'' Dominik said.