TAMPA — There was a surprise on the Bucs' injury report Thursday. Coach Raheem Morris revealed QB Josh Freeman suffered a sprained right thumb Oct. 23 in the loss to the Bears.
But Morris said Freeman's injury is not an issue, he has practiced without limitations and he will play Sunday against the Saints. The issue came up when Freeman was spotted in a Wednesday NFL Network interview with the thumb wrapped.
"Ask the Saints. I guess they reported it; you can ask those guys," Morris quipped. "That's why we reported it, because the league asked us to. (Freeman) sprained it in the Chicago game, came in and practiced during the bye week, and didn't miss anything this week."
Morris appeared amused with all the fuss over the taped thumb and joked with reporters that he can "make it a big deal if you want me to."
He smiled and said: "You know, (Freeman) might not be playing against the Saints, I don't know. I'll go Belichick on you guys," referring to Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who is typically evasive when it comes to injuries.
The Bucs were emphatic they weren't worried about Freeman.
LIKE VLADE: Saints TE Jimmy Graham has been a tough matchup for a lot of teams, including the Bucs. He racked up seven catches for 124 yards in Tampa Bay's 26-20 win on Oct. 16. Graham (6 feet 6, 260 pounds), a second-year pro, has 25 catches for 346 yards the past four games.
"Jimmy Graham had a good game against everybody," Morris said. " He's big, fast, got a lot of (former Lakers 7-foot-1 center) Vlade Divac in him, has a little bit of flop in him. He's a talented young individual who creates a bunch of problems for people because of his rare athleticism and his rare speed and his rare size."
PICK IT UP: Offensive coordinator Greg Olson said the staff looked through all Freeman's passes this season during the bye week and did a lot of "self-evaluation" on how they can help put the quarterback in better situations. Freeman has 10 interceptions in seven games, four more than he had all last year.
"We always talk about it as a team. Interceptions are not just the quarterback's fault," Olson said. "But he has a big hand in it. A lot of it is the decision-making process, and we've got to make the decision-making easier for him so he's not forcing those throws."
FEEL THE PAIN: Defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake can empathize with Saints coach Sean Payton, who had surgery to repair a bone fracture and a torn knee ligament after being hurt when he was caught on the sideline in a tackle in the loss to the Bucs. Lake suffered a torn patellar tendon in his left knee in the game.
Payton had surgery the following day and coached from a booth the next Sunday, a 62-7 win over the Colts. That was impressive to Lake, who had his procedure after returning from London and had last week off to recover. Lake will coach from the sideline Sunday.
"I felt better presurgery; the after-surgery thing is no joke, with all the stuff they put in you," Lake said. "It's not good. At least I had the bye after my surgery. I don't know how (Payton) coached a game after his surgery, because I was out of it for a couple of days."
MEDICAL MATTERS: S Tanard Jackson (hamstring) was added to the injury report because he did not practice, but the team said he did not have a setback and got a day off because it had an extra day of preparation coming off the bye week.
Times staff writer Stephen Holder contributed to this report.