One of the big 2013 National Football League season questions for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is if quarterback Josh Freeman will perform well enough to earn a hefty contract renewal.
The answer is likely a playoff berth.
Freeman has had many up-and-down moments in his four years in pewter and red. Maybe some fans and analysts forget that, when he arrived in 2009, he stepped up fast.
Freeman commanded the Bucs to a victory in early November in his first start against the Green Bay Packers. He also became the youngest quarterback in Bucs history to start and win his first game.
Before his first special moment—with obvious huge expectations and stress on his table—Freeman was steady.
“It's something that's very exciting to me,” he said. “It's something I've been working towards my entire career and it's not something I'm taking lightly. “
He showed some good maturity for a 21-year-old that fateful week.
"I come out with a different swagger,” he said. “Because I'm the guy taking the majority of the snaps and I'm the guy who has to radiate that type of swagger so my teammates can catch onto it.''
The team caught on enough to get a win for Freeman and the Buccaneers.
It’s more than a fast-forward to the comments of the now-25-year-old Freeman, because much happened to him along the way. His first coach is gone, as are many players he knew and depended upon.
That’s the NFL. It’s always an intense study in how to draft, release, trade and get the most from super former college football players.
The Buccaneers team now has youth and veteran help. For a few years, it mostly just had youth.
Now, the coaching staff seems savvy.
During a recent Buccaneers minicamp, Freeman shared more words.
“At the end of the day it comes down to football,” he said. “You’re going to different plays, different reads. But you can’t choose what path you’re going to take. No matter what it is, you have to make the most of it.”
Freeman has matured, but he seems to bring the same confidence he brought to Tampa Bay four years ago. He is in the final year of his contract, so he is seasoned in more than one way.
When new coach Greg Schiano brought his chosen coaching staff, the Buccaneers improved from a dismal 2011 season to win almost half their games in 2012. That’s not great, but it's better.
The pewter and red organization has been aggressive in going after top talent in free agency and the draft over the past few years. Whether it has acquired adequate personnel to propel Freeman and team to the playoffs is all future activity.
However, the four-month regular season is already looming on the horizon.
Freeman obviously brings and displays maturity with his comments during a minicamp interview. That attitude can only help.
“You’ve got to look at every year as a critical year,” he said. “The lifespan of an NFL player is short. I’m blessed to have an opportunity to be the quarterback of the Buccaneers this long.”
Freeman is optimistic.
“I love my teammates,” he said. “I love the setup we have down here, and I think everything is set up for us to go out and play well as an offense this year.”
Recently, NASCAR’s Kasey Kahne visited the headquarters of the Buccaneers for a promotion of the Daytona Coke Zero 400. Kahne and Freeman tossed a football after an intense practice.
Freeman understands NASCAR speed as well.
“It’s kind of similar to football,” he said. “The level of competition is high, the best of the best. Every race for him. Every week for us. It’s a new challenge. Nobody is going to roll over. It’s always going to be stiff competition.”
This 2013 NFL football year may be crucial for Freeman and other players on the roster, but one big element arriving with that first snap of a ball is apparent.
Freeman is seasoned.
The next 16 regular-season games may count big for Freeman as well.
This content was assembled and processed by Dwight Drum. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official release materials provided by sanctions, teams or representatives.