Tampa Bay Buccaneers consider starting rookie Josh Freeman at quarterback right away

TAMPA — Start the play clock for quarterback Josh Freeman.

The Bucs are re-evaluating the plans for their first-round pick and will consider starting Freeman if he continues to progress in training camp.

Quarterbacks coach Greg Olson said, "it's not out of the question'' Freeman takes the path that the Falcons' Matt Ryan and the Ravens' Joe Flacco took last year and starts as a rookie.

Olson met with general manager Mark Dominik, coach Raheem Morris, pro scouting coordinator Doug Williams and other coaches, and they concluded they might need to accelerate Freeman's development.

"We did talk last week. And when I say we, I'm talking about everyone in the building from the GM, the head coach, Doug Williams — other people were involved. And we just discussed the Josh Freeman plan," Olson said. "We decided we'll … go probably a week into training camp, and we'll revisit it again. We may expedite what he's doing.

"Maybe we get him involved early — earlier than we thought."

During voluntary workouts and mandatory minicamp, Freeman took third-team reps as veterans Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich vied for the starting job.

The plan was not to rush Freeman because the 17th overall pick from Kansas State entered the draft as a junior. But neither McCown nor Leftwich has done enough to distinguish himself.

"Early when he first got here, (Freeman) was forcing the football too much," Olson said of the 21-year-old. "If he can show he's progressing as far as the decision­making goes, then shoot, why not? He's comfortable in there. He throws a great ball. He's accurate, and if he's not turning the ball over, then gosh, maybe he will be ready to play.

"He didn't seem nervous in the huddle at all last week, and that was a great sign. He made some big throws as well."

Much of the decision will be based on how well the Bucs play around Freeman.

"That's a big part of why Joe Flacco had success last year," Olson said of the quarterback who led the Ravens to the AFC title game.

"If you can put him in a system where he's got a good offensive line and he has a great weapon at tight end and he has some weapons at wide receiver and we have a good running game, then the quarterback doesn't have to shoulder as much."

Freeman said he is approaching the season with the mind-set of playing as soon as possible but understands he has a lot to learn.

"I'm definitely a competitor, and I want to play and win the job," he said. "But at the same time, I understand that it's about winning football games. It all depends on how well I develop. And right now, I'm doing everything I can to get in that position to compete.

"It's not my decision as to whether or not I'm going to play. I'm just going to try and give them every reason to play me."

Morris, who was Kansas State's defensive coordinator during Freeman's freshman season, was asked if he would be surprised if Freeman won the starting job.

"It would be hard for me to say I would be surprised because of all the information I had on him coming in," Morris said. "I've seen his work ethic at Kansas State when he was a freshman and he wasn't a starter. What he tried to do, what he wanted to do, how he works — things I knew about him that other people didn't. Nothing would surprise me with the kid. We want the kid to grow and mature as needed.

"We've got a national quarterback competition. We're one of the few teams being talked about on NFL Network every night, and it's fine. We enjoy it. We embrace it. And it's good that we talk about it. It means the rookie is doing something that we like. He's pushing the envelope. These guys are fighting with him.

"We'll continue to evaluate this thing throughout training camp. We'll continue to evaluate it throughout the season. We'll continue to evaluate it until Josh Freeman is ready to become our prototypical franchise quarterback."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers consider starting rookie Josh Freeman at quarterback right away 06/17/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 17, 2009 11:52pm]

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