TAMPA — QB Josh Freeman threw soft passes in practice Friday, the first time he tested his sore right shoulder this week. Freeman is listed as questionable against the Panthers, but his final status won't be determined until just before Sunday's game.
"I did a little bit, but today really isn't important," Freeman said. "Same status. I'm just listening to the trainers and trying to ease into it, you know?"
Freeman was injured on a fourth-and-1 sneak in Sunday's 23-17 loss at Tennessee.
Backup Josh Johnson has taken most of the repetitions with the first-team offense this week. But Freeman's improvement has been encouraging.
"He'll be a game-time decision, and we'll take it right up until the last moment of truth out there, so we'll see," coach Raheem Morris said. "He went out and threw the ball around a little bit. Still limited. … The first couple days he didn't throw it as much. He threw it a little (Thursday), he threw it more today."
Freeman has 35 consecutive starts since taking over as a rookie from Johnson after the team's 0-7 start in 2009. Morris said because Freeman prides himself on playing through injury, the team will have to watch him closely.
"He won't tell me (how he feels), there's no doubt about it," Morris said. "That's why we've got to have doctors around. He's one of those guys that wants to lead like that, think like that. Everybody wants to be Brett (Favre), and Brett set a great example for all these young quarterbacks and what the standard looks like and the model looks like. It's one of those decisions you've got to make as a head coach."
Johnson went 0-4 as a starter in 2009. But he is a more mature quarterback and has had a good week of practice, Morris said.
"Josh Johnson had a spectacular week of practice," Morris said of the fourth-year player. "We talked about the kid being very motivated, talked about the guy going out there and really being prepared. When you have a week like this and he takes all the reps, you can see how prepared he really is and how much he really wants it and how much he's been paying attention. Those things are helpful for me."
DT Brian Price, carted off with a right ankle sprain Sunday, returned to practice and is listed as questionable. DE Michael Bennett, who missed last week's game (groin), did not practice and won't play. DE Adrian Clayborn (back), DT Albert Haynesworth (knee), LB Adam Hayward (foot), S Tanard Jackson (hamstring) and LB Dekoda Watson (groin) are probable.
MILDCAT OFFENSE: One element Johnson could bring is the spread option or a version of the wildcat offense that he has operated this season (five carries, 17 yards).
"That could be different, but we've been running it, so teams have film on it," Johnson said. "It's just now if I'm in there as the full-time quarterback, it can be different scenarios in the game and we can sneak one of those in there and they might not be exactly as prepared for it as if I was just coming in for one play."
The Broncos are 5-1 since turning to QB Tim Tebow and their version of the spread option.
"We have had some success running it here," Johnson said. "They're doing a great job with it (in Denver). They're doing a lot of different types of variations of the spread than we're doing, but he's having success with it. I'm pretty sure, since he's doing well, a lot of coaches might look into it. But (Tebow) and I are two different kind of guys. He's 240 (pounds). He can take those beatings. I try to keep it so I can maintain mine. I'm only 210."