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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Career backup? Buccaneers QB Josh Johnson laughs off Morris' assessment



One of the things that fell through the cracks in the aftermath of the season opener was the decision to make Josh Johnson the No. 2 quarterback behind Byron Leftwich on Sunday 

It was a curious decision to say the least given the presence of first-round pick Josh Freeman, the man the franchise has proclaimed its future.

Why, then, was Johnson the choice to enter the game in the event something happens to Leftwich? Coach Raheem Morris said it was because the club is starting to groom Johnson for what it deems his long-term role as the Bucs' No. 2 quarterback.

Morris, who I think meant this as a compliment, said Sunday, "I talked about him being my Jason Garrett, my career backup. . . You’re talking about preparing a guy who you think can be your long-term backup. You might as well put him in a game right now. That makes (him) prepare a little differently."

It was Morris' way of saying Johnson is an asset to the team, rather than a guy with no significant role. Garrett, now a Cowboys assistant, was the consummate backup and made a good living doing so. But we're pretty sure Johnson has loftier goals. Still, when told by reporters on Monday of Morris' characterization, Johnson laughed out loud but did not take offense. 

"Come on, you know how Raheem is," he joked.

"I can’t speak for the future honestly," he added. "I can only look at right now, and right now I am a backup to Byron and I’m helping (Freeman) get ready for what he’s going to do in the future. I really don’t worry about it. If Coach says that, that’s fine. We’ll see what happens down the line."

What's odd about this arrangement, though, is that Morris has said Freeman would be operating as the backup quarterback during practices, allowing him to learn the ropes of installing game plans and all that game preparation entails. But, then, on game day, Morris plans to ask Johnson to take over in a pinch without the same level of preparation?

That, on the surface, doesn't compute.

For what it's worth, Johnson is probably absorbing more during meetings and practices -- even as an observer -- because he knows he's just a heartbeat away. So, in that sense, perhaps he is growing as a player.

"I’m looking at it from a different point of view this year because I know that at any moment I could go in," he said. "Last year (when he was the fourth QB), I knew I wasn’t going to play and I was just trying to learn."

That's a good thing, no question. But it's hard not to come to the conclusion that some of this is perhaps driven by the team's recognition that Freeman has a lot to learn before he gets under center in a critical game.

That's not something Morris or coaches are prepared to admit, but when trying to decipher what's going on here, nothing else really makes much sense.

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 3:41pm]


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