Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs must reduce hits quarterback Josh Freeman absorbs

TAMPA — All around the NFL, the headlines offer examples of something no team wants: an injured quarterback.

With the Eagles' Michael Vick, the Bears' Jay Cutler, the 49ers Alex Smith and the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger nursing injuries, the Bucs know it's unsustainable for QB Josh Freeman to take as many hits as he did Sunday at Carolina.

How to fix it for their next game, against the Falcons?

The Bucs plan a multilayered approach involving the offensive line, Freeman and coaching. The team attributed the offensive line's underperformance, in part, to a good game by the Panthers defensive line.

"That is a very talented, very well-coached front four," offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said. "We thought they were going to be good, but they were even better."

Sullivan said he and his staff will consider adjustments to mitigate protection issues.

"There are things we can do as far as moving the launch point, getting some quicker, rhythm-type throws … so he can get the ball out faster," Sullivan said of Freeman. "I really think it's a combination of things from a protection standpoint, executing a little bit better up front. And then when you're facing a tough group like that, it's going to be a challenge."

But if and when Freeman is faced with absorbing contact, there's little doubt at One Buc Place he can take it. The 6-foot-6, 248-pound quarterback stood in the pocket and took a head-on hit on the tying touchdown against the Panthers, never flinching.

"You're talking about a guy who is tough as nails with his ability to hang in there and still maintain the downfield focus; his vision on the receiver," Sullivan said.

"He's not a happy-feet guy. He's not a guy who is turning away (from the hit)."

It's just not what he does, Freeman said.

"I have a job to do," he said. "Regardless of what's happening around me, I have to do my best to execute my job."

Freeman has certainly done that with a 94.6 QB rating, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions during his team's four-game winning streak.

Said Falcons coach Mike Smith: "He's playing at a Pro Bowl level right now."

WRIGHT news: CB Eric Wright did not practice Wednesday as he continues to deal with an Achilles injury. Coach Greg Schiano said it's "too early to tell" if he'll play Sunday.

Wright has started but missed big chunks of the past two games after aggravating the injury, sustained late last month.

Fox Sports' Jay Glazer reported in late October that the sixth-year player faces a four-game suspension for using Adderall, but Wright declined to be specific when asked about it Wednesday.

MEDICAL MATTERS: WR/KR Arrelious Benn (shoulder) didn't practice, and Schiano said the team will have to wait and see on his availability. … WR Tiquan Underwood (head), shaken up late Sunday, fully participated. … Schiano is encouraged with RG Jamon Meredith, who played Sunday and has responded "surprisingly well" since spraining his left ankle at practice last week. … CB Anthony Gaitor returned to practice after being on injured reserve the past six weeks. Gaitor, who injured a hamstring in the preseason, can't be activated for a couple of weeks but said he felt great to be back: "When that day comes to get back on the field, I'm going to be ready."

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