Josh Freeman got everything he wished for from his self-organized minicamp on Tuesday. And then some.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback hoped about 45 players would come out to the IMG Academies for the start of the three-day camp. By the time everyone hit the field, more than 50 were in attendance.
That group included unsigned draft picks such as defensive end Adrian Clayborn and linebacker Mason Foster and pending free agents such as right guard Davin Joseph and right tackle Jeremy Trueblood. Even cornerback Aqib Talib, who faces an aggravated assault charge in Texas, was there.
"It just says that we have a hungry team and that going out and winning football games is really important to all of our guys,’’ Freeman said after the first 90-minute workout.
"It just shows that we have a lot of passionate dudes here, and you have to love the fact that they all took time out of their schedule to come out and do something like this.’’
The NFL lockout prohibits team officials, including coaches, from having any contact with players. That left players to organize their own offseason workouts. Freeman held several workouts in Tampa prior to organizing the minicamp.
The most notable players not in attendance Tuesday were cornerback Ronde Barber, running back LeGarrette Blount and two pending free agents, running back Cadillac Williams and linebacker Barrett Ruud.
Some may have had good excuses as Barber apparently was sick and Williams was preparing for his wedding later this week.
"It was really good to see pretty much the whole team here,’’ second-year wide receiver Mike Williams said. "Usually, when we do this, it’s just the offense that’s here. But to have the whole team, that’s great.’’
Several players who could not fully participate in the team drills because they are still recovering from season-ending injuries showed up as well and, in a couple of cases, simply watched the workouts from the sidelines.
"I’m not ready for this yet,’’ said second-year defensive tackle Brian Price, who is recovering from hip surgery. "I just started running again last week, just started running straight ahead.’’
Price was joined on the sidelines by running back Kareem Huggins (knee) and for a while by receiver Arrelious Benn (knee), but Benn eventually made his way onto the field and participated in most of the workout.
"I’m able to cut a little bit and do some things, but I still want to take it easy,’’ Benn said. "Right now it’s still early and I feel good but you know, portions of my knee still need to heal so I don’t want to be stupid.’’
Some have questioned how smart it is to even hold such a camp, seeing as the players cannot be trained by Bucs coaches. Everyone in attendance Tuesday seemed to believe there was a great benefit.
"I can’t speak for anybody else, but it was my first time getting into a three-point stance since our last game and it felt pretty good to do that,’’ left tackle Donald Penn said.
"It’s good to get used to that football stuff again because when you’re lifting weights and running, that’s a different part than playing and being in football shape. So, it was good to get that done.’’
It wasn’t like the workouts were unsupervised or even self-supervised. Freeman arranged for members of the IMG Football coaching staff to work with each position group to ensure the best possible workout for each.
That meant getting instruction from former NFL players or coaches such as Howard Tippet (linebackers), Tom Nutten (offensive line) and Ken Dorsey (quarterbacks).
"It’s hard to beat that,’’ Benn said of working with Dorsey and IMG football director Chris Wienke. "I’m going to get some autographs before I leave here this week.’’
Freeman isn’t interested in autographs. As the undeniable leader of this group, he’s all about getting the most he can from the workouts and keeping the Bucs on track for the start of the regular season.
"Every year we get together the last week of June and put together a good hard minicamp before we take some time off in July. So, we’re just trying to keep things as normal as possible,’’ he said. "We didn’t come out here to sit around and look pretty. We came out here to get some work in.’’