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Bucs' Schiano putting Freeman in tough spot

Bucs starter Josh Freeman seems to be dealing well with a potential quarterback controversy heading into the final season of his rookie deal.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Bucs starter Josh Freeman seems to be dealing well with a potential quarterback controversy heading into the final season of his rookie deal.

TAMPA

Some controversies are, admittedly, a creation of the media. But when it comes to the months-long story line about QB Josh Freeman and the doubts about his future with the Bucs, the story has been mostly perpetuated by, well, coach Greg Schiano.

His admission last week that "Maybe I should just not say anything and then it wouldn't be an issue" confirms that even Schiano is aware of this fact.

Multiple public statements by Schiano have raised questions about whether he sees Freeman — entering the final year of his rookie contract — as the team's long-term starter.

Schiano has made a bit of a mess, creating an environment in which fans might begin calling for third-round pick Mike Glennon if Freeman has rough patches this season. Schiano even suggested recently that it's not out of the question that Glennon will win the starting job this year — though he has since backtracked significantly (at least the second time this offseason Schiano has had to walk back statements about Freeman).

The laid-back Freeman doesn't appear disturbed by the talk. He and Schiano seem to be coexisting well, for now, so from that perspective, things are fine.

But there are potential pitfalls down the road.

When Freeman does experience the inevitable struggles that come over the course of a 16-game season, the questions from reporters and fans will immediately commence. And shortly thereafter, players could be asked to take sides, a definite Pandora's box.

Even-keeled as Freeman might be, such a scenario might put additional pressure on the fifth-year player, which is unlikely to produce better results.

Maybe Schiano thinks his comments will have the opposite effect and push the 25-year-old to have his best season yet. And maybe he's right. But one can argue that Schiano is not doing Freeman, the holder of numerous franchise passing records, any favors.

In any case, here's something everyone can agree on: The quickest way to put all this to rest is for Freeman to light it up this season.

If that happens, chances are Schiano would happily eat his own words.

LONG-AWAITED CHANCE: TE Tom Crabtree, signed by the Bucs as a free agent from the Packers in March, might not overtake Luke Stocker as the starter, but he'll get a better shot at extensive playing time than he could reasonably have expected in Green Bay.

Buried on the Packers' depth chart because of their many tight end options, Crabtree never got much of a shot in Green Bay. For that reason, the Bucs had to do some projecting when it came to scouting him.

"You saw (talent) when you studied him on tape," Schiano said. "You had to dig a little bit, but when he got an opportunity, he made plays. To me, there's physical traits and production. Sometimes you don't get a full page of production because there's other people there. But the physical traits (lead) you to believe that the production could be consistent if given the opportunity."

Crabtree had just 18 receptions in three seasons with the Packers.

NOTHING DOING: RB Jeff Demps was the lone player not in attendance at last week's first offseason practice, not a surprise given his current focus on track and field. The Olympic silver medalist and former Gator, traded to the Bucs last month from the Patriots, still is concentrating full time on sprinting during the offseason and isn't expected around One Buc Place until the preseason — at the earliest. The Bucs seem content to put off any decisions about Demps' future for at least a little while.

TWEET OF THE WEEK: "I've passed up Panda Express and Wing Stop! I'm serious about this diet!" — Newly chiseled DE Adrian Clayborn, attempting to get in better shape coming off a torn ACL in 2012

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at sholder@tampabay.com.

Bucs' Schiano putting Freeman in tough spot 05/25/13 [Last modified: Saturday, May 25, 2013 10:11pm]
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