You can't always protect the quarterback. At some point this season, Josh Freeman will feel the pressure bearing down on him from all angles.
The odd thing is the heat will be applied by the Bucs.
The quarterback needs a bounceback season after throwing 22 interceptions and 16 touchdowns in 2011. What's more, because Freeman is signed through only 2013, coach Greg Schiano, who didn't draft him, must help decide if the Bucs should offer him a substantial contract extension.
"Those are really organizational decisions, but I think the world of Josh," Schiano said. "I think he's going to have a great year and just continue to get better and better. I think the guys coaching him, (quarterbacks coach) Ron Turner and (offensive coordinator) Mike Sullivan, do a tremendous job with all our quarterbacks.
"The thing I'm most impressed with in Josh, from the day I got here, is his thirst to just drink up all the knowledge these guys have. That's real cool for a head coach to see. And then I really enjoy all aspects of our relationship in that it's got a lot of different levels to it. I enjoy coaching the guy."
Sullivan, who helped straighten out the Giants' Eli Manning as his quarterbacks coach the past two seasons, says Freeman is eager to erase the stain of 2011.
"I think there is a resolve. There is a determination he has to put himself in a position to be the type of player he wants to be and lead us to the wins to get to where we want to go," Sullivan said.
An increasingly restless fan base will not allow Freeman any excuses for not being the quarterback who threw 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions in 2010, his first full season as a starter.
The focus of the offseason was to buttress Freeman with additions such as WR Vincent Jackson, RB Doug Martin, TE Dallas Clark and G Carl Nicks. But with Drew Brees (Saints), Matt Ryan (Falcons) and Cam Newton (Panthers), Freeman might have the longest climb in the NFC South.
"I expect to do well every week," Freeman said. "That's the mentality.
"I'm really excited about getting out there point-blank."
Five others to watch in 2012
Doug Martin: The running back will be a tired man on Mondays. Coach Greg Schiano believes Martin has as much talent as Ravens (and ex-Rutgers) running back Ray Rice as well as feeding the hot hand. Schiano has no ceiling when it comes to touches for the 5-foot-9, 215-pounder.
Vincent Jackson: The receiver has never had more than 60 receptions in a season and must prove he's comfortable working the middle of the field. Jackson might be targeted that many times over the first five games.
Lavonte David: The linebacker could be the defensive MVP. Sure, he's a rookie, and it takes more than one player to transform the worst defense in club history. But David is a heat-seeking missile who will make a ton of plays.
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Gerald McCoy: The defensive tackle will change some opinions if he stays healthy for 16 games. If not, the Bucs might cut the cord.
Aqib Talib: This should be the cornerback's best season. He's a free agent afterward, and all of the legal drama is behind him.