Trimmed down Freeman growing as a quarterback
He has lost 20 pounds, dramatically altering his physical appearance, and has shorter hair. But Josh Freeman believes he has grown as a quarterback.
Along with his shrinking waistline, the 6-foot-6, 237-pound Freeman needs to reduce his number of interceptions and says he already has benefitted from a new head coach, offensive coordinator and supporting cast of players.
A year after throwing 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions, Freeman was intercepted 22 times and recorded 16 TD passes last season. The result was a 4-12 record, including 10-straight losses, and a hit to his reputation as one of the league's rising young quarterbacks.
"Last season, a lot of trhings didn't go our way,'' Freeman said. "Me personally, a lot of things didn't go my way. But in that, there's a lot to learn from the standpoint of trying to step out of the system, trying to make too many plays, trying to do things when in actuality, as a quarterback, the offense is going to get you there. You just have to man the ship.''
Shortly after the 2011 season ended, between the firing of coach Raheem Morris and the hiring of Greg Schiano, Freeman said he decided to rededicate himself to his craft. The first step was getting into the best physical condition on his life. In addition to cutting out the late-night runs to Taco Bell, Freeman hooked up with Grant Gregory, the former Kansas St. and Tampa Bay Storm quarterback who worked as a trainer in Harbour Island.
Gregory, who is desribed by Freeman as a guy who is always carrying Tupperware 'with vegetables, chicken, all that stuff,' taught Freeman how to eat properly. That combined with the workout regimen put in place by Bucs strength and conditioning coach Jay Butler enabled Freeman to go from 257 pounds tO 237 pounds.
"You know, it was a number of lifestyle changes,'' Freeman said. "It's interesting, because after the season last year, the time in between coaches, I had a good discussion with Greg Olson and we talked about a number of things, one of which was trying to be at your best, trying to be a pro at everything, not just football, but in your life, lifestyle habits. Just go about life and strive for excellence in everything. That's one area I never really, being young, you could eat whatever you wanted and do whatever. But it was something, yeah, I wanted to take the steps and be excellent with my diet, with exercise, with working out year 'round. That's about it, with a few simple changes, working out, playing a little soccer. It's good.
"Everybody is like, "Oh, did you get faster? Did you lose a little strength? No, really, I can't say I got noticeably faster. I can't say I got noticeably stronger or weaker. But I feel good. Flexibility, throwing the ball. I feel physically great.''
On the field, the Bucs filled a grocery list of needs on offense for Freeman, starting with the signing of Chargers free agent receiver Vincent Jackson, Saints guard Carl Nicks and selecting Boise St. running back Doug Martin in the first round of the draft to add to the Bucs' returning weapons.
"Each year, you constantly learn and grow,'' Freeman said. "Going into my fourth year, I feel like I've made improvements every year and that's what I've got to keep doing this year, finding ways whether it be in practice, in preparation, in footwork, throwing the ball -- constantly trying to improve.''