Tampa Bay Buccaneers say rookie quarterback Josh Freeman is nearly ready to get playing time

TAMPA — During the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss at Philadelphia, coach Raheem Morris and some of his assistants considered doing something that is inevitable: playing rookie QB Josh Freeman.

Though the game was out of hand, they decided against it, mainly because the Eagles hadn't strayed from their barrage of blitzes for which Freeman wasn't fully prepared. But the team's 21-year-old No. 1 draft pick is closer to being ready to take his place under center if and when the Bucs decide his time has come.

"He could play right now," offensive coordinator Greg Olson said Wednesday. "He's getting reps, we're sharing reps in practice right now between he and Josh Johnson.

"It's just a matter of him getting comfortable with (blitzes). So, if he had to play, yeah, he would play. He's our No. 2 quarterback right now. It's just a matter of him getting reps during the week."

Morris said: "Josh Freeman's development is really going well. Josh Johnson, however, has been here for a year. He's been here for the 6 o'clock meetings in the morning for a year; he's been with Greg Olson for a year; he's been through these protections for a year. … He's been through all that. Freeman's going through that process."

Johnson, named the starter two weeks after Byron Leftwich struggled early, has performed decently and improved from one week to the next but is 0-2 as a starter.

BRYANT FRUSTRATED: WR Antonio Bryant practiced on a limited basis and said his lack of consistent practice because of a lingering knee injury has adversely affected his performance Sundays.

But Bryant also expressed frustration with the offense's inability to get in synch for myriad reasons.

"You have to look at the situation," he said when asked about his drops and lack of production. "I'm out here putting up numbers in my situation (12 catches, 141 yards, one touchdown), but week after week I come back to this (swollen) knee. I mean, look at this knee.

"Come on, man, a different quarterback, system … there's too much going on. There's no consistency yet. We're trying to find some consistency. … I mean, you see we had our first 100-yard receiver, and it took five games."

Bryant was speaking of TE Kellen Winslow, who had 102 yards against Philadelphia. Working on timing and building chemistry with Johnson in practice will help the situation, Bryant said.

"The only time I get to be me is on Sunday," he said. "That's the only time I get to move, run or do anything. But I'm going to go ahead and drain my knee and go out and practice because it's important to me. … I feel like I'm not doing my team any justice by not practicing."

TONY WHO?: Morris said he knew nothing about the origin of Fox broadcaster Chris Myers' speculation the Bucs had discussed approaching former coach Tony Dungy about working for the franchise in an advisory capacity.

"I have no idea where that came from," Morris said. "The Glazers haven't approached me. … That's just speculation. If it has any truth to it, then so be it."

Dungy has since said he has not been contacted and is not interested in a front-office role with an NFL team.

INJURY UPDATE: RB B.J. Askew (back/neck) and TE Jerramy Stevens (quads) did not participate Wednesday. In addition to Bryant, LT Donald Penn (ankle) and Jimmy Wilkerson (knee) were limited.

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at sholder@sptimes.com

PANTHERS UPDATE

Charlotte takes reps in chilly rain

Practice on Wednesday in Charlotte included steady, sideways rain and the temperature dropped into the high 40s. "I thought our players' focus was really good," coach John Fox said. "We can get some rain in Tampa, but I think it was a hard sell to convince them that it could be 45."

• WR Steve Smith does not have a reception of more than 30 yards this season, and none for a touchdown. He's almost always double-teamed and, according to QB Jake Delhomme, doesn't come back to the huddle to tell him he's been open. "If we've had another pass play and he was open," said Delhomme, "that's going to kind of raise my antenna to see him (the next time)."

• RB Jonathan Stewart (Achilles' tendon) had his usual Wednesday practice off.

Charlotte Observer,
Associated Press

Tampa Bay Buccaneers say rookie quarterback Josh Freeman is nearly ready to get playing time 10/14/09 [Last modified: Thursday, October 15, 2009 7:12am]

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