The quarterback says he does not want to be traded, no matter what you may read on the Internet. Why, Josh Freeman is a Buc, and if you take him at his word, he is tickled pewter to be one.
The head coach says any talk of a trade is news to him. Coach Greg Schiano says there have been no discussions about a trade. For that matter, he anticipates that Freeman will start at quarterback the next game, too.
Ah, yes. Nasty things, these headlines.
The fact is, there is only one thing to lead you to believe those wicked rumors that Freeman may be trying to get traded:
This is how a guy plays his way out of town. For most of Sunday's 16-14 loss to the New Orleans Saints, Freeman sputtered. He played as if his destination was not the end zone, and if it was, it wasn't this end zone.
Freeman threw the ball only 22 times, and he completed only nine passes, and when it came to the biggest play of the game, his coach kept him safely out of the way. He threw for only 125 yards, and he had an interception, and he had a fumble while being sacked. In a game where the Bucs needed Freeman, he was pretty much a bystander.
For instance, consider the Bucs' most important play. It was third and 6 with 1:56 to play, and the Saints were on the ropes. If the Bucs picked up a first down, the Saints were toast.
And Schiano … ran Doug Martin.
By now, this shouldn't surprise anyone. Schiano did the same thing against last year Atlanta (and lost), and he did the same thing last week against the Jets (and lost). This time Martin ran for 3 yards.
And the Bucs lost.
"That's what we thought was the best way to get the first down and keep the clock moving," Schiano said. "We felt good about the play, the way they were closing in on the run. It was a bit of a specialty play."
Oh, in the end, it wasn't that special. The Saints tackled Martin a good 3 yards shy of the first down marker.
Which brings us back to this: In the NFL, third and 6 is a passing down. Coaches who trust their quarterbacks tend to throw the ball in such situations. Yes, a Freeman incompletion would have stopped the clock, but as it was, the Saints had enough time to move the ball downfield for their winning field goal.
To ignore Freeman in that position again suggests there isn't quite the unshakable bond between coach and quarterback that anyone would like. Granted, Freeman's play for most of the game wasn't exactly a call for the ball with the game on the line, but Freeman had just hit two of his biggest passes of the day, throws of 20 and 18 yards to Vincent Jackson.
All this, of course, was before the usual task of denying the latest headlines.
This time, a story by cbssports.com said Freeman was likely to ask for a trade before the deadline because his relationship with Schiano is so fractured. At this point, you can believe it or not.
Poor Josh. This keeps happening to him. One day it's that he doesn't have a contract, and the next it's that he wasn't elected captain. The day after that it's that he overslept and missed the team photo. Then it's a players-only meeting where supposedly his captaincy status was discussed. And now this.
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It seems there is always a story about Freeman and his tenuous grip on the Bucs' quarterback position, and he is always denying it and insisting his relationship with Schiano is simply dandy.
At this point, you believe one of a few things. One, the Internet was created with the single purpose of making stuff up about Josh. Two, there is enough smoke to convince you something unsettling is in the relationship. Or three, you are simply weary of the drama.
On the other hand, if Internet reports kept making up things about you, wouldn't you get ticked? Wouldn't you slam down your fist and demand some answers? Wouldn't you want to know if anyone in your camp is starting these rumors?
"If it's going on, I need a new camp," Freeman said. "On game day I try to shut my phone off. It's not my job to write or to critique writing."
I know this: If Freeman really wants a trade, he should say so and simplify matters. He's a take-charge guy, right? Of course, it's hard to imagine a long list of teams that are in the market for a quarterback whose offense has scored two touchdowns in two weeks, or a quarterback who just completed fewer passers than in any other of his 57 starts.
For crying out loud, it looks as if something is in Freeman's head. The contract. The coach. The lack of a captaincy. Something.
If things don't change, Freeman won't have to ask to be traded.
It will happen on its own.