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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Tampa Bay Buccaneers will start Josh Johnson Sunday against Washington




TAMPA - Josh Freeman's time has not yet come, but Byron Leftwich's has apparently run out.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris announced today that 23-year-old Josh Johnson will replace Leftwich as the starting quarterback in Washington on Sunday.

Johnson, a fifth-round pick out of San Diego last season, got his first extended playing time in the NFL in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss to the New York Giants.

"He provides us more options," Morris said of Johnson. "We evaluated this morning, looked at the tape, and made the decision today. He gives you the dynamic that you all know about. He creates a better chance to break out of the pocket and make a play with his feet."

Johnson took the Bucs on a 71-yard drive in his only possession before stalling on the New York 5. The Bucs had four first downs on that possession after getting one on their previous eight drives under Leftwich.

By going with Johnson, the Bucs seem to be looking for a spark without sacrificing the future development of Freeman, their prized first-round draft pick.

Morris said Freeman will be the backup quarterback.

"He'll be expected to be ready to go," Morris said.

It is difficult to put the team's 0-3 start on Leftwich, 29, who had little support in Sunday's game. Still, Johnson gives the Bucs a lot more mobility in the pocket with a chance perhaps to be more creative in the gameplan.

Of Leftwich, Morris added: "I hate to make this about Byron...He missed a few throws, he didn't give us the accuracy we wanted." But at the same time, Morris said, Leftwich "didn't jump offsides on the second play of the game" and "he didn't drop passes. So it's not all about Byron. But that position is usually -- just like the head coach -- the guy who gets the blame. I talked to Byron this morning and he lookedme right in the face and said, 'Hey, I knew I had to get some wins early.' And we're moving on.'

Leftwich's role as No. 3 will include offering guidance and serving as a mentor the Johnson and Freeman. "There's no doubt about it," said Morris. "That was the main part of my message. I don't want to lose Byron Leftwich -- the guy he is. He looked me in the eye and said, 'Coach, I'm not going to change.' Because he's a great guy to be around."

-- JOHN ROMANO, Times Columnist


[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 3:43pm]


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