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Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman says he won't hesitate to take chances in NFL debut

Because of the Bucs’ bye, Josh Freeman will have had two weeks between his debut and first start. He prepared while at One Buc Place and during a trip home to Kansas City, Mo.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Because of the Bucs’ bye, Josh Freeman will have had two weeks between his debut and first start. He prepared while at One Buc Place and during a trip home to Kansas City, Mo.

TAMPA — You would expect a young gunslinger such as Bucs rookie quarterback Josh Freeman to come out firing.

Freeman said Wednesday that he is ready to "let it rip" in his first start, which comes Sunday against the Packers.

"I've been working really hard with (offensive coordinator Greg Olson)," he said. "And I feel comfortable with a lot of the guys I'm throwing to. I just want to go out there and let it rip."

At 21, Freeman will become the youngest quarterback to start for the Bucs.

The 17th overall pick played two series in a 35-7 loss to the Patriots on Oct. 25 in London. He completed 2 of 4 passes for 16 yards and was sacked twice. But the baptism was enough for Freeman to realize the strategy of the Packers and future opponents.

"Teams are probably going to bring a lot at me as far as blitzes," he said, "which I'm prepared for because that opens a lot of stuff up down the field and in the middle of the field."

Bucs scouting director Doug Williams, who has watched film of Freeman while at Kansas State and during Bucs practice, said the 6-foot-6, 248-pounder is not afraid to throw downfield.

"You've got a gunslinger in him," Williams said. "He's a guy who's going to take more chances than a lot of people think. If you look at the quarterbacks that have been successful, they've kind of got a gunslinger mentality. You've got a 40-year-old playing in Minnesota (in Brett Favre). That's all he's ever done is take chances. At the same time, he's got some guys who understand if he's going to take chances, they're going to make some plays for him. We've got to have those players who believe that Josh is going to get it downfield so I've just got to find a way to come up with the football.

"He's going to make some mistakes, and we've all got to live with it. But I think the more he plays, the better he's going to become and understand that there's a time to take chances and a time not to."

Freeman will be the Bucs' third starting quarterback in the past eight games, but coach Raheem Morris doesn't plan on having a quick hook. He was the defensive coordinator at Kansas State in 2006, when Freeman took over as a freshman, and pronounced him a "franchise quarterback," upon drafting him.

A strong arm and willingness to take chances down the field is becoming more of a staple in the NFL. It has contributed to the 81 touchdowns of 50 yards or longer, the most through Week 8 since 1970.

"That's today's quarterback," Morris said. "All these guys, all these great quarterbacks we're talking about, they're all gunslingers. They all go through their trials and tribulations. I don't want to say it started with (Favre), but Brett is now the guy talked about being the ultimate gunslinger.

"You're talking about a guy who has led this league in interceptions, and I don't think he ever remembers that stat. He just remembers how many touchdowns he's thrown, how many wins he has and how many Super Bowls he's hunting. That's got to be a quarterback's mentality in this league, and that's what they're ultimately judged on."

Because of the bye, Freeman has had an extra week to prepare for the Packers. He had two days of practice before traveling home to Kansas City, Mo., for a few days, where the studying continued.

"I watched film, threw, pretty much kept my routine," Freeman said. "Spent a little time with my family, took all the DVD cut-ups, took my playbook … just kind of relaxed a little bit.

"There's a lot of pressure surrounding being (at One Buc Place), so I just took a little time to collect my thoughts; not necessarily about football, but just everything going on. At the same time, I kept preparing."

It's unclear how much Freeman has benefited from waiting until the Bucs' eighth game to make his starting debut. But teammate Byron Leftwich, the first-round pick of the Jaguars in 2003, has been in Freeman's shoes. He played in Weeks 2 and 3 his rookie year before starting in Week 4.

"He was talking about how every game, no matter what the score is, no matter what's going on, you're going to feel like you need to make a play," Freeman said. "And he said what you've got to fight is the urge to take a shot. Maybe the shot play is called, if it's kind of clean but not really, not taking it. Ultimately, your goal is to keep the chains moving."

But as Freeman knows, every now and then, you have to grip it and rip it.

Bucs vs. Packers

1 p.m. Sunday, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa
TV/radio: Ch. 13; 103.5-FM,
620-AM
Line: Packers by 91/2

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman says he won't hesitate to take chances in NFL debut 11/04/09 [Last modified: Thursday, November 5, 2009 8:24pm]
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