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Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman can learn from headlines

Bucs first-round pick Josh Freeman can easily study the perils that come with the fame of an NFL quarterback.

Times

Bucs first-round pick Josh Freeman can easily study the perils that come with the fame of an NFL quarterback.

There are lessons in the headlines. There are warnings in the broadcasts.

If you are Josh Freeman, heir apparent, perhaps you should have been reading the coverage all along.

He is on the brink of his career now. Freeman, the Bucs' Next Big Thing at quarterback, is one signature and 10 days away from his first training camp. And as any quarterback will tell you, that's when the real learning begins.

How quickly will Freeman play? It depends on how fast he can soak up the knowledge. More than with any other position in any other sport, that's the key to playing quarterback. A young passer has to learn plays and progressions, coverages and situations, teammates and tendencies.

For Freeman, that means there is a lot of work to come.

On the other hand, if the kid has been paying attention, he could have learned a lot this offseason.

The best life lessons always come from your peers. Look around the NFL this year and there are a lot of examples, good and bad, for Freeman to observe. After all, aren't the cheapest lessons always the ones that someone else pays for?

From Jay Cutler, for instance, Freeman could have the lasting lesson of how not to turn into a whining twit.

In the end, it doesn't really matter what anyone thinks of Cutler's ability or his coach trying to trade him in for a newer model. What matters is how Cutler managed to handle his situation in the worst way imaginable. Cutler transformed into a petulant child trying to hold his breath until he turned into a Bear, and because of it, his reputation might never be the same.

In football, learning what not to do is a valuable lesson. At this point, none of us knows how close Freeman is to a Bucs contract — relax, it will get done — but there are classy ways to disagree. Cutler, of course, managed to avoid them all. Not returning messages from the team owner? Not a good path to follow.

From Steve McNair, sadly, there is the grim lesson of the dangers of playing outside the lines.

Look, it isn't hard for an NFL quarterback to get a date. But when it comes to wives, remember, the standard issue is still one per customer.

No, McNair was hardly the first athlete to have a mistress. Dallas once had its White House, and Minnesota once had its Love Boat, where married players took their girlfriends. But be aware how many professional athletes have gotten into trouble over the years with extramarital affairs.

As long as they call it "cheating," perhaps an athlete should avoid it. Right?

From Brett Favre, there is the lesson of staying too long at the fair.

Time was, Favre was the most admirable of NFL quarterbacks. He was tough, and he was daring, and he could suck the breath out of the grandstands. But this constant waffling and the endless games of should he stay or should he go have become tiring.

Frankly, the NFL is still a more interesting place with Favre than without him. But these days, Favre is just a wandering headache looking for a place to land. He's too loud to care about.

Retirements should come one at a time, too.

From Bernie Kosar, there is the lesson of a man taking care of his money.

Remember when Kosar was a smart guy? That's before he gave most of his money away. Kosar is bankrupt now, and he recently told the Miami Herald that he had no idea how to wash a dish or iron a shirt.

Football won't last forever. A smart player makes sure the fortune he will make from playing the game will.

From Michael Vick, there are lessons about responsibility … and basic compassion.

The guy murdered dogs. Wouldn't it have been more fun to go to a movie? A concert? A baseball game? At what point did that sound like a good idea?

From Tony Romo, there is the lesson of handling celebrity … and celebrity girlfriends.

Nothing against Jessica Simpson, but when she and Romo broke up recently, you almost wanted to congratulate Romo. After all, the last thing a quarterback needs is to face more cameras and more suggestions on why he can't win a playoff game.

Of course, if Romo winds up with one of the Kardashians, all bets are off.

From Matt Cassel, there is this lesson: If people are going to criticize you, it is best they criticize you for your big stinking contract.

Let's see: A career backup finally gets a chance to play, and he gets the best coach and the best receivers in the league. Because of that, the Chiefs gave him $63 million. If Cassel had made more than 15 starts, who knows what he would have been paid?

That's the thing. The better a quarterback plays, the less anyone is going to talk about his paycheck. Does anyone gripe about Tom Brady's pay? Or Eli Manning's? Or Drew Brees'? Of course not, because success is always a bargain.

From Jason Campbell, there is a lesson in handling the swirling rumors around him.

Say what you want about Campbell. He still has some proving to do. But this offseason, there were rumors the Redskins were going to trade up to draft Mark Sanchez, and there were rumors they were going to trade for Cutler.

Campbell didn't gripe, and he didn't whine. He kept working. And here's hoping he has a good season.

From Ryan Leaf, there is the lesson that there are worse things than bad football.

You remember Leaf, the most memorable bust in two decades. He was arrogant, he was annoying and he was ineffective. And now he's about to go on trial in Texas on burglary and controlled substance charges.

To sum up: Don't be Ryan Leaf.

Of course, there are positive lessons out there to learn, too. Peyton Manning can teach you a lot about preparation. Brady can teach you a lot about competitiveness. Ben Roethlisberger can show you that winning is more important than statistics. Donovan McNabb can tell you about perseverance.

All things considered, those things are better than Jessica's phone number.

Pay attention, Josh. You will be tested.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman can learn from headlines 07/20/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 21, 2009 10:51am]

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