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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Josh Freeman's moment of truth coming soon



When the Bucs take the field for their afternoon practice in an hour or so, we finally will get some clarity on how effective -- or not -- injured quarterback Josh Freeman can be against the Browns on Sunday.

The problem isn't whether Freeman can throw well with his fractured right thumb. He's already proven he can do that. The issue is more a matter of whether Freeman can handle the forceful snaps from center that will put his thumb under constant stress as center Jeff Faine thursts the ball into Freeman's hands.

Faine is reserving judgment until the time comes.

"I’m not gonna lie," he said. "We’re pretty concerned about it. It’s something we haven’t worked at too much. We’ll see how it goes today. Today is a great test. We’ll see how it feels for him and I think we’ll knowing moving forward."

And what if it presents a problem?

"If he can’t get (the snaps) then I think we’ll go in a different direction," Faine said. "I’m not overly concerned . . . I’ll wait until we cross that bridge. If it’s something he can’t do, we have capable guys who can get the job done. I’m not concerned with that at all.

"He’s throwing the ball extremely well. I was surprised in the pregame in Houston and in our walkthrough out here (this morning). He was throwing it around just like normal. He was throwing the ball extremely well. I think we’ll be able to tell more today through this practice as far as how comfortable he’s going to feel with the exchange and the handoffs."

That said, the Bucs -- at least publicly -- are not backing off their position that Freeman will be the starting quarterback in Sunday's season opener. And barring an unforseen struggle with handling the center-quarterback exchanges, there's no reason to think he won't.

Asked what, if anything, would keep him from playing, Freeman said, "Not my thumb. It would have to be something outside of that."

There will be some discomfort, Freeman admits.

"It won't be bad, but obviously, it's playing football," he said. "I'm going to get tackled, I'm going to hit the ground, probably run into a few people. It depends on how (the thumb) gets hit. I have no idea what it's going to be like."

The debate in the training room right now is whether Freeman will wear anything protective on the thumb. If so, it wouldn't be much.

"We're going to try different things," Freeman said. "Right now, I'm going without any wraps or anything. But I can see us putting a splint on the outside of it, just precautionary, not really affecting my throwing motion. Just keeping it from getting bent backwards or anything.

"We talked about a glove, but I feel better with just bare hands."

UPDATE: Freeman threw crisply during the portion of practice that was open to the media, but the media viewing portion ended before the Bucs went into the full-squad portion during which Freeman would take snaps from under center.

We'll be hearing from players and coaches within an hour or so, after the workout concludes.

[Last modified: Tuesday, September 7, 2010 2:15pm]


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