If Freeman plays in the season opener, he will have to endure some pain in throwing hand
Josh Freeman will have to play with pain even though the Bucs still believe his fractured thumb will heal enough to allow him to start the season opener against the Cleveland Browns Sept 12, general manager Mark Dominik said Monday.
Freeman broke the tip of the thumb on his right (throwing) hand on the first series of Saturday night's 20-15 preseason win over Kansas City when it struck the helmet of Chiefs' linebacker Tamba Hali.
Dominik said the Bucs are planning on signing another quarterback, but it won't be veteran Jeff Garcia, who is with the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League. Tampa Bay is expected to reach out to former Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead, an undrafted free agent who spent the off-season with the team.
Dominik said Freeman is attacking his rehab the same way he did the off-season workouts and was in the Bucs facility icing his thumb early Monday. According to Dominik, it will take several weeks for the bone to heal but Freeman can begin practicing when the swelling and pain subsides.
"He'll have to play with some pain,'' Dominik said. "I mean, it is a broken bone in his thumb, so he's just got to let that actually fuse back together. But it's a lot about the swelling, it's about being able to grasp the football, to hold onto it and be accurate with the ball. But this week, he's going to be extremely limited to almost doing nothing, just to give him a chance to really get his body healthy and move forward from there.
"Injuries are part of it and you deal with that in every aspect of the game. I think every sport handles injuries the same way. It's just part of the nature of the beast. You just continue to prepare the guys behind them and I think our coaching staff has done a very good job with our two young quarterbacks in Josh Johnson and Rudy Carpenter. I think they both played their best game this last week, so you just have to prepare the guys behind them to step up if that were to happen. But certainly, we're looking forward to Josh being out there against the Cleveland Browns.''
Freeman's injury obviously means more playing time in the next two preseason games for Johnson and Carpenter. Dominik said he met with the coaching staff last night and decided that they would play the starters -- in this case Johnson -- into the second quarter.
"The coaches still felt like going along with the same plan we always have and just letting Josh Johnson run with the first team and let him run for awhile just to get everybody prepared and ready to go for a regular season game,'' Dominik said. "There's not reason to stop that right now. The thing about Josh Freeman that probably a lot of people are concerned about, and we're not, is that he has spent an inordinate amount of time, obviously as you all know, with the off-season program here -- every day he possibly could. Sure, it's disappointing he may not be able to practice this week. But the kid has made a lot of progress throughout the whole off-season. All that work is not for shame. So, four or five days, five or six days (missed) versus what he put into the off-season, I'm confident where he's at.''
The Bucs opted not to sign a veteran quarterback in the off-season, going with Johnson and Carpenter behind Freeman. Johnson is 0-4 as a starter and Carpenter has never played in an NFL game. Freeman's injury won't change those plans.
""We'll stay with the younger guy right now,'' Dominik said. "If the situation were different, we maybe would approach it differently. But at the same point, the preseason is important for all the players and Rudy Carpenter can't get enough snaps. He's done a good job. That's only the third preseason game in his life. So he can take as many games as he can. Same with Josh Johnson, because at some point, you've got to be prepared to actually be able to play games and the coaching staff has done a good job with those two players and they can use all the reps anyway right now as we go forward.''