TAMPA — Bucs Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph was all smiles Tuesday afternoon and apparently for good reason. He said he is recovered from right knee surgery that ended his 2012 season before it began.
Joseph, 29, who tore his patellar tendon in a preseason game in August, said the toughest part of his long rehabilitation was being isolated from teammates. He said he has no physical limitations now and is confident he can return to form.
"I'm where I need to be," he said.
Joseph, entering his eighth season, admits his career "hour glass is coming towards the end" but believes the Bucs have the coaching staff, players and front office to compete for a Super Bowl title.
And yes, Joseph said, Josh Freeman is the right quarterback to "take us to the next level."
Joseph said the burden shouldn't fall completely on Freeman's shoulders.
"I'm biased. He's my friend, teammate, he's my quarterback," Joseph said. "But the thing that's going to make Josh 'the guy' is his team. … You look at the two teams in the Super Bowl: They weren't the two best quarterbacks in the league, but the two best teams in the league."
Freeman, who is entering his fifth season (and last on his contract), has faced his share of criticism and questions over whether he's Tampa Bay's quarterback of the future.
"I defend Josh a lot. I always take his side because I feel like everybody wants to point to him," Joseph said. "But it's really the team. It's the organization; it's the coaches. It's everybody.
"I know Josh is the guy because he's here, and I know we have everything we need to win here. When it comes together, we'll be praising Josh. Of course he'll be the guy with the MVP trophy. But it's a team sport."
CULTURE CHANGE: Joseph was impressed with how the offensive line performed last year without him and fellow Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks, whose season ended in October after left toe surgery. RT Demar Dotson stepped up, as did G Jamon Meredith, with Jeremy Zuttah moving to center. Joseph said the depth is partly a credit to the organization's culture and work ethic under coach Greg Schiano. "It's the change that we went through, going from a country club to a place where we actually conduct football business now," Joseph said. "It's that change that really prepared those guys to be able to fill those spots."
Hit Repeat: Though Schiano doesn't have the two extra weeks of offseason workouts he was granted last year because of the coaching change after Raheem Morris was fired, he wouldn't trade that for the continuity of having all his systems in place.
"It's not even close," Schiano said. "Just (Monday), we started meetings with the players, and we're watching video of us. We're not watching Giants video and Rutgers video and Dolphins video. We're watching Bucs video. Just the fact that you're watching your players on their tape, it's a huge advantage. Things are installed. I feel good about that."