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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Josh Freeman on interceptions: Got to learn to 'pull your punches'



Now that time has put some distance between Josh Freeman and the 2011 season, the Bucs quarterback has had ample opportunity to reflect on his struggles.

This week, as the Bucs begin their offseason program in earnest, Freeman offered his take on what, exactly, happened to him last season, when he threw a career-high 22 interceptions.

“You learn a lot,” Freeman said. “Really, it was just pressing too hard. I felt like I had a good offseason of work. But at the same time, you get into games and, coming off a good (second) year (in 2010), you feel like you can do so much more and continue to get better.

“I was working harder, felt better, was throwing the ball better. But sometimes you try to force things when things (go wrong) in the game.

You have to go back to your rookie year when you let it come to you. When you’re playing your best football, you’re not making plays; you’re just running the offense and letting the system make plays for you.”

This is the same sentiment offered recently by coach Greg Schiano, who said Freeman was trying to do too much in an effort to pull his team out of bad predicaments.

To that end, Freeman suggested he’s learned when to say when.

“It’s really a heat of the moment thing,” he said. “It’s not some deep-rooted philosophy where I say, ‘I’m going to go out there and force it.’ Certain times in a game you have to try to make things happen.

“But you have to try to pull your punches at times.”

For all the criticism Freeman took in 2011, it should be pointed out that he set career highs in a couple of important categories. He threw for 3,592 yards and completed 62.8 percent of his pass attempts.

The interceptions, however, are undeniably a problem.

Still, there’s reason to think Freeman can avoid them in 2012. While the interceptions aren’t excusable, they do need to put in the proper perspective.

Some things to consider: A great number of his picks were thrown in the red zone or in 2-minute situations, when Freeman was desperately trying to make a much-needed play. Those interceptions are, to an extent, more costly, but they also were thrown in situations where the defense has an upper hand because of the offense’s predictable situations.

Another consideration: Freeman played from behind in every game during the 10-game, season-ending losing streak. That’s a recipe for trouble for any quarterback, especially one who could confidently say his defense was incapable of getting stops (the Bucs ranked 30th in total defense).

Not to be overlooked is the play of Freeman’s receivers, particularly Mike Williams, who took a collective backward step. Tight end Kellen Winslow, though he caught a team-high 75 passes, had trouble creating separation from defenders, impacting some of Freeman’s interceptions.

The fact is, Freeman’s 2011 setbacks don’t have to continue. As Schiano has often said in recent weeks, everyone on the roster is getting a fresh start.

And, in the case of Freeman, the timing of this reset couldn’t be better.

[Last modified: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 9:43am]


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