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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs QB controversy keeps cropping up

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Published:   |   Updated: May 21, 2013 at 11:34 AM
TAMPA -

No matter how many times Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano says it — and he's said it repeatedly this offseason — he can't seem to sell everyone on his claim that Josh Freeman is his starting quarterback.

Maybe Schiano is partially to blame.

A simmering Bucs quarterback controversy bubbled up again over the weekend when Schiano told National Football Post that rookie Mike Glennon would be used this year “only if he's needed. Or if he wins the job.''

That renewed speculation regarding Freeman's future and forced Schiano to again address his quarterback situation Monday after the first day of workouts at One Buc Place.

“We have our starting quarterback — it's Josh Freeman,'' Schiano said. “And I'm not looking to find a new one. But I do like to have quality depth at every position. When you have that, it naturally raises everyone's level of play.''

It also raises questions regarding the future of the incumbent. And nowhere do those questions pop up more than at the quarterback position, especially when the coach keeps leaving the door open to the possibility of a change.

Schiano did that at the beginning of the offseason, saying one day after the 2012 regular-season finale that he was unsure of Freeman's future as Tampa Bay's starter because he still had not evaluated Freeman's play. Schiano has since backed off that comment, saying first at the scouting combine in February and several times since that he is convinced Freeman can take the Bucs to the Super Bowl.

Schiano stuck to that claim even after Tampa Bay used a third-round draft pick on Glennon, and despite his seemingly contrary remarks to the National Football Post, he stuck to it on Monday.

“I'm just trying to tell the truth — that I believe in competition, but also that Josh Freeman is our starting quarterback,'' Schiano said. “Maybe I should just not say anything, and then it would not be an issue.

“But Josh knows how I feel and you (local reporters) know how I feel and I know that Mike Glennon does, too, because I told him the day we drafted him. So I don't sweat it.''

Freeman doesn't seem to be sweating it, either. Despite learning a new offense last year, he set single-season franchise records by throwing for 4,065 yards and 27 touchdowns.

But Freeman's record-setting season was soiled somewhat by a pair of four-interception games down the stretch. With Freeman's contract set to expire after this season, the Bucs do have an opportunity to move on.

“You know, that's the way it works on any team, honestly,'' Freeman said Monday of the possibility he could be replaced. “You want to have the most talented team you can possibly have, and Mike's a very talented player.

“He fits (our offense). And, so, down the road, if we are making a run and something happens to me, you want a guy who can come in and keep it going. So, really, I'm excited about (having) Mike here.''

Schiano's hope is Glennon's presence will push Freeman to play with more consistency. Freeman said he doesn't necessarily need that push as much as he needs a little more time to learn Mike Sullivan's offense.

“This system is still fairly new to me,'' said Freeman, who will have to do the bulk of his learning during practices because Glennon is expected to get most of the preseason game snaps.

Schiano said as much on Monday, confirming a point made a couple weeks ago by Bucs general manager Mark Dominik during a national radio interview, even though he knew it would spark more speculation.

“You try to get the young guy as many under-fire snaps as possible … and that's all Mark was alluding to,'' Schiano said. “But then that becomes — ding, ding, ding. But that's OK.''

One thing Schiano doesn't seem OK with is the perception that because he inherited Freeman when he became the head coach in 2012 that Freeman is not his first choice at quarterback and the two do not get along.

“That's inaccurate,'' Schiano said. “Believe it or not, we actually do have a good relationship, contrary to some of the reports. And I don't think any of that bothers Josh, either.

“Josh is a confident guy. He knows that this is his team. So, I don't think it bothers him one bit. I think he's ready to go have a great year and that's what we're working for.''

Freeman agreed the two have a strong relationship.

“Coach and I have a great relationship,'' he said. “I go up there (to his office) at least every week and we sit down and talk about football, we talk about the team, we talk about life. I know Coach Schiano extremely well, and he's a guy that I'm proud to play for.''


rcummings@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7979

Twitter: @RCummingsTBO

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