FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — It's a good thing the Patriots weren't allowed to tee off on Bucs QB Josh Freeman on Wednesday.
Tampa Bay's offense had protection issues during the two-minute drill portion of the teams' joint practice.
In one series, Freeman would have been sacked three consecutive times, the last on a delayed blitz by LB Jarod Mayo. Another ended with Freeman throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown.
Freeman said the Bucs were not as prepared for some of the defensive looks and blitzes the Patriots used as they will be for the teams' game Sept. 22.
"They mixed up fronts and brought a couple of protections that they hadn't really shown," Freeman said. "But it's something that we're going to go back and evaluate … and move forward."
Coach Greg Schiano wasn't pleased but reserved judgment. "The results weren't good," he said. "But let me look at (the video) and see where the breakdowns were."
BOWERS REGRESS? DE Da'Quan Bowers is being pushed to transition from a third-down-pass rusher to an every-down player. But his production hasn't been what the Bucs have sought, and Bowers saw fewer reps on first and second down Wednesday.
"We're constantly moving guys in and out," Schiano said. "As I think it warrants, we're going to make moves to give guys more plays in practice. There have been some moves both ways, but we're trying to figure out what the best mix is right now."
Bowers is expected to start Friday's preseason game against the Patriots. He played the first half of last week's 44-16 loss to Baltimore in the preseason opener.
SCARLET FEVER: The teams have a combined 17 Rutgers products on their 90-man rosters. Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who has nine, has never hidden his fondness for players coached by Schiano during the latter's decade coaching at the school. Belichick cracked that school officials should have attended Wednesday to "get some alumni donations going."
Bucs C Jeremy Zuttah arrived at Rutgers in 2004, when Schiano was still digging the program out of a hole. "There was only like three (alumni) in the (NFL) back then," Zuttah said. "It's been fun to be a part of. The first couple years, there's a couple guys here or there. Now, it's like we've got a couple of guys on every team we play every week. It's great."
But Bucs guards Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph remain unimpressed, Zuttah said.
"Carl is from Nebraska, and Davin in from Oklahoma," he said. "They're always throwing around Rutgers jokes. But I think we're up there with them in numbers. That's pretty cool."
BUCS BITS: Gabe Carimi took a lot of reps at right tackle in place of starter Demar Dotson. … The temperature was 73 degrees at the start of practice with a strong breeze.
Times staff writer Stephen F. Holder contributed to this report.