TAMPA — Stung by a breach of confidentiality of his medical status, Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman said Monday night he voluntarily agreed to be tested under the NFL's substance-abuse program after switching from Adderall to Ritalin to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Freeman said he has passed 46 league-administered drug tests over the past 18 months at One Buc Place.
The revelation was in response to a report earlier Monday by ESPN's Chris Mortensen that Freeman is a Stage 1 participant — the lowest level — in the league's substance-abuse program.
Freeman, who last week was benched in favor of rookie Mike Glennon, accused members of the Bucs organization who might have witnessed his tests of making harmful assumptions.
"Unfortunately, it appears that some people who may have noticed the testing at my workplace have made hurtful and incorrect assumptions and chosen to disseminate inaccurate and very disturbing information," Freeman said in a statement released Monday night.
"It is a shame that when times have gotten tough, people have chosen to attack the character of others rather than supporting each other. I remain dedicated and focused to being the best quarterback I can be and to help a team win a championship."
Since his benching, Freeman has said he wants to be traded or released. The Bucs said they will try to trade him before the Oct. 29 deadline.
Wednesday, Bucs coach Greg Schiano said Freeman would serve as the No. 2 quarterback for Sunday's game against the Cardinals. But Freeman was inactive and watched the game from a suite for inactive players at Raymond James Stadium.
Schiano called it a "mutual decision." However, Freeman's agent, Erik Burkhardt, said that was a "lie, obviously."
Freeman, the Bucs' 17th overall pick in 2009, saw a decline in his performance near the end of the 2012 season. And after going 0-3 and failing to complete 50 percent of his passes in those games this season, he was replaced by Glennon.
Sunday, Mortensen reported teams interested in acquiring Freeman were entitled to know his status in the substance-abuse program only if he is one strike away from a suspension. He added that is not the case with Freeman.
"Let me be very clear. I have NEVER tested positive for any illegal drugs or related substances," Freeman said in the statement. "Further, I have agreed to take and have PASSED 46 NFL-regulated drug tests over the last year-and-a-half.
"Since the confidentiality of my medical status has been publicly violated, I am choosing to address this matter so that grossly erroneous assumptions about me do not persist. Like millions of Americans, I have ADHD and I have been prescribed and permitted to take medication to treat this condition for the entirety of my NFL career. Well over a year ago, I took a different medication for the same condition (Ritalin rather than Adderall). And to assure everyone that the error was a one-time mistake, I agreed to be voluntarily tested in the NFL Program.
"Since that time, I have taken and passed all 46 drug tests I've been given, which test for every drug and banned substance imaginable. I agreed to allow such testing to be done at my workplace (team facility) because I spend all of my time there and I have nothing whatsoever to hide or be embarrassed about."
Citing a league source, profootballtalk.com reported the NFL players union will be "coming after everyone" to determine who violated the confidentiality provisions by leaking news of Freeman's status.
Under the collective bargaining agreement, teams can be fined $500,000 for a violation.
Rick Stroud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-620. Follow him on Twitter at @NFLStroud.