TAMPA — The 49ers' Colin Kaepernick played in the Super Bowl. The Redskins' Robert Griffin III hasn't been cleared to play as he recovers from knee surgery.
Those are the only two NFL starting quarterbacks who took fewer snaps after two preseason games than Josh Freeman.
The Bucs quarterback is ranked 30th among starters with 21 plays this preseason. He has completed 6-of-10 passes for 42 yards and has been sacked four times while participating in only four offensive series.
Freeman is a lightning rod for criticism. Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton took shots at him Tuesday, saying among other things: "He just plays … awful.'' (More on 2C).
Gerald McCoy responded, "I heard what was said. I don't like it. I think (Freeman is) an unfair target. He is the franchise quarterback, but so what? There's a lot of players on the team. I think the reason I'm so sensitive about it is because I got it for two years."
Freeman, entering the final year of his contract, has produced a field goal in his four series. The lack of preseason game snaps is by design, coach Greg Schiano said.
"One of the advantages of working against New England was that I feel like he got three days' worth of snaps against another team," Schiano said. "He has his two receivers back from last year, (receiver Kevin) Ogletree is new, Tiquan (Underwood) is back. I think they understand each other, they have a good feel for each other. I didn't feel like there was any need to push the envelope for that reason and it allows (quarterback Mike) Glennon and the other guys to get reps.
"Now, Josh will play substantially more (at Miami) this week, so I look at it as if he's played two games, the New England practices and then this game."
While Freeman got good work against New England in practice, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady maximized his time in Friday's 25-21 win over the Bucs, going 11-of-12 for 107 yards and a touchdown despite spraining his knee in practice Tuesday. Brady insisted on playing and says game speed cannot be simulated in practice.
"It's your only game prep," Brady told WEEI in Boston. "I haven't taken a hit in eight months. It's hard to say, 'Let's just see what happens (in Week 1) against Buffalo.'
"You've got to put it in and see where you're at in terms of game speed and the reads. Things are different in the game, when you're under the pressure of the play clock, and a game clock, and the headphones go out and the substitutions are wrong and now you've got to call a different play in the huddle. All these little things, that one play in a regular-season game can cost you, so you've got to try to work those kinks out as best you can before the season starts."
Brady has participated in four series this preseason, scoring three touchdowns.
One reason for Freeman's limited snaps is the offense's failure to pick up first downs. In addition to sacks, the first team has struggled to run and receivers have dropped passes.
Schiano pointed to a drive against the Patriots when Ogletree dropped a pass: "Everything feels different when Ogletree (drops that ball) — because that's a Hall of Fame throw, that's a 30-yard bullet — and just get your hands together and make the catch.
"I sit there and say, 'Okay we didn't help.' We could do that and until you do it, you're not worth a dime. But I have confidence we could've done it. I have confidence in our guys."
Rick Stroud can be reached at [email protected] and can be heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-620.