TAMPA — Bucs QB Josh Freeman, who missed his first game in two years Sunday because of a right shoulder injury, is on track to return to practice Wednesday and is optimistic he'll play against the Jaguars next Sunday.
Freeman said the plan is to rehab for a couple days with hopes of resuming throwing in Wednesday's practice. He was limited last week to some soft throws after injuring the shoulder on the final play of a loss to the Titans on Nov. 27. Coach Raheem Morris remained hopeful Freeman would return Wednesday, but acknowledged the team will be cautious with its franchise quarterback.
"You don't want to hurt your quarterback any further," Morris said. "You want to be smart with him and figure out what he can do and how fast you can let him do it."
Also on the injury front, CB Aqib Talib is unsure if he'll play this week after aggravating a hamstring injury on the first series Sunday. Talib, who was forced to leave the game, has coped with the injury for weeks and played through a great deal of discomfort.
"It's still in there," Talib said of the injury. "You can play with it until you make a certain move."
Morris said Talib will have an MRI exam, but pointed out the corner has a lot of pain tolerance.
"His toughness is off the charts when it comes to dealing with certain injuries," Morris said. "He's kind of Ronde (Barber)-like in that sense. … We'll have to see where he is, go through the MRI process, see when you can run, see if you can run."
PRICE CHECK: Morris apologized for using a four-letter expletive during Sunday's postgame news conference, calling it "frustration on my part." He used the term in responding to a question about why he told DT Brian Price to leave the field after Price committed a costly personal foul in the third quarter.
Morris said Price's standing in the lockerroom played a role in why he made the move, pointing out he has a "low tolerance" for players he depends on for leadership.
"We cannot make those types of mistakes, and he's got to be an example-setter," Morris said. Morris said he spoke with Price on Monday and will talk to him again about the incident.
"He knows he can't hurt his football team that way," Morris said.
NOWHERE TO RUN: Wondering why RB LeGarrette Blount seemed to have nowhere to run on his 11 mostly fruitless carries?
The Panthers, knowing Freeman was out, made certain of it.
"With Josh Freeman out and (Josh Johnson) stepping in, a lot of teams would be looking to stack the box," Blount said. "(They think) we don't have Freeman so they don't have nothing to worry about.
"When safeties shoot through gaps, they're not respecting your pass at all."
Blount went on to say that Johnson acquitted himself well, saying, "We didn't miss a beat with Josh Johnson in there. I don't know what else we can ask for. He's a solid backup."