TAMPA — Because of his broken thumb, Josh Freeman was pretty hands-off during practice last week as the team prepared for the opener against the Browns.
After Freeman aggravated the injury taking snaps Tuesday, the Bucs shut their quarterback down hoping he could handle the collisions that awaited Sunday.
But two days before he tossed a pair of touchdowns to lead a 17-14 come-from-behind win over the Browns, Freeman was involved in a minor automobile accident that left him unhurt and the Bucs shaken up.
"It was a real gutsy performance … by Josh Freeman," offensive coordinator Greg Olson said Monday.
"Everybody's body reacts differently. It was a clean break, but it was a break, and it wasn't healthy. He came out and played with pain. On top of it — I think everybody made a big deal about Tom Brady being involved in an accident — I got a call from (trainer Todd Toriscelli) saying (Freeman) was rear-ended on Friday. … So the guy played on top of a broken thumb after being involved in an accident."
The Bucs had no details regarding the accident, but it didn't appear as serious as the one last week involving Brady, the Patriots quarterback.
In fact, it appears an unidentified teenage girl rear-ended Freeman's vehicle, and the damage wasn't severe enough to involve law enforcement or exchange information. But Olson said he was nervous after hearing news of Freeman's fender bender.
"Oh, believe me. Big time. Big time," Olson said. "Again, I think it's a credit to him and his will to want to play and his toughness."
Freeman went 17-of-28 for 182 yards with the two touchdowns and an interception Sunday. He had a game-high 33-yard run and finished with a rating of 88.7. It wasn't perfect, but under the circumstances, Olson said, Freeman played pretty well.
"Certainly, there were some throws there I think he would say he wished he had back," Olson said. "He left some hidden yardage on the field. But the fact that he did go in and play on very limited practice, he didn't really take a snap until Sunday morning. We gave him some snaps early in the week, and it caused (the thumb) to flare up a little bit. So we waited until Sunday, and I thought he played well under the circumstances."
Coach Raheem Morris said the Bucs will follow a similar script for Freeman this week in preparation for the Panthers.
"No setbacks for Free," Morris said. "He's exactly where he is. We'll keep our plan for him. We'll figure out how much he practices, but I know he'll be out there Wednesday. We'll figure out how many snaps he takes in practice, actual live ones."
Freeman's thumb affected him on some throws Sunday, Olson said. He missed a wide-open Mike Williams for a touchdown before throwing a 33-yard scoring strike to Micheal Spurlock.
"We like to run the football, and that set up a situation where we were getting low safeties, so it provided for some of those opportunity shots down the field," Olson said. "I think we were 1-of-5 on that. We'd like it to be a little higher.
"On the one touchdown, we had a similar play called earlier to Spurlock where they brought an all-out blitz in that same situation and Josh held the ball and took the sack. Spurlock … we felt he got held. Josh didn't let the ball go. So we discussed it on the sideline and said, 'It's going to happen again. If it happens again, now Mike, you can't get held, and Josh, you've got to let the ball go. Let the officials make the call if they're holding them.' That's what resulted in Spurlock's touchdown on the next play."
Heading into Sunday's game at Carolina, the talk still is about the status of a starting quarterback. But this time, it's the Panthers' Matt Moore, who suffered a concussion against the Giants.
Freeman should be good to go.
"We talked about that earlier in the week, where if that was going to be the case, we'd probably better play Josh Johnson," Olson said. "But he threw it fine and came out of the game saying it felt fine."