TAMPA — Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman voluntarily entered the NFL's substance-abuse program more than a year ago after he mistakenly took Ritalin instead of Adderall to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Freeman acknowledged his participation in the NFL program in a statement issued Monday through his agent.
“Like millions of Americans, I have ADHD and I have been prescribed and permitted to take medication to treat this condition for the entirety of my NFL career,'' Freeman said in the statement released by agent Erik Burkhardt. “Well over a year ago, I took a different medication for the same condition (Ritalin rather than Adderall) and to assure everyone that the error was a one-time mistake, I agreed to be voluntarily tested in the 'NFL Program.'
“Since that time, I have taken and passed all 46 drug tests I've been given, which test for every drug and banned substance imaginable. I agreed to allow such testing to be done at my workplace (team facility) because I spend all of my time there and I have nothing whatsoever to hide or be embarrassed about.''
Freeman, in the final year of his rookie contract, was benched last week in favor of rookie Mike Glennon and watched Sunday's game against Arizona from an “inactive suite'' at Raymond James Stadium.
Monday's statement regarding his participation in the NFL program was in response to an ESPN report, citing unnamed “league and player sources,” that he was a Stage One participant. According to the report, Freeman committed no violations that would put him in jeopardy of a suspension and was in good standing with the program.
“Let me be very clear,” Freeman said in the statement. “I have NEVER tested positive for any illegal drugs or related substances.”
Release of information regarding the NFL's substance-abuse program is a violation of its confidentiality policy, with offenders subject to a fine of between $10,000 and $500,000, according to program policies outlined on the NFL Players' Association website.
“Unfortunately, it appears that some people who may have noticed the testing at my workplace have made hurtful and incorrect assumptions and chosen to disseminate inaccurate and very disturbing information,” Freeman said in the statement.
“It is a shame that when times have gotten tough, people have chosen to attack the character of others, rather than supporting each other. I remain dedicated and focused to being the best quarterback I can be and to help a team win a championship.''
The NFL's substance abuse program consists of three stages and contains a variety corrective measures, including random testing, treatment, fines and suspensions. A player can be placed in the first stage of the NFL's drug program for various reasons, including behavioral causes.
The NFL is prohibited from telling the player's team he is in the program.
Freeman's statement was just the latest episode in what has become a bizarre sideshow to a Buccaneers season off to an 0-4 start under second-year coach Greg Schiano.
On Wednesday, Schiano benched the fifth-year quarterback citing on-field performance. A day later, Freeman gave an exclusive interview to ESPN in which he said he believed his “best option'' moving forward would be a trade to another team.
Schiano initially said Freeman would serve as the backup to Glennon on Sunday, but Freeman was deemed inactive the morning of the game.
Schiano said after the game, a 13-10 loss in which Glennon threw two interceptions in the final three minutes to help fuel a Cardinals comeback, that the decision to have Freeman be in the suite rather than on the sideline was a “mutual'' one between he and Freeman.
Freeman's agent, Burkhardt, called Schiano's claim a lie.
For those wondering why Freeman is still on the team, Schiano offered a simple explanation Monday.
“I'm not going to be naive,'' Schiano said as the winless Bucs head into a bye week. “There's a lot of factors involved. This is not high school football, it's professional football. There are salaries and contracts and those things involved. What I do is focus on the things that will help us win games.''
Schiano did not commit to Freeman being inactive for future games.
“We'll take it each week, as we do all the inactives and the backups,” Schiano said. “We'll see how everything plays out.”
Freeman, 25, could be a free agent next spring.
But for now, he remains.
“As long as he's a Buccaneer, then he will be a part of this team and do the things that we do,” Schiano said.
Reporter Ira Kaufman contributed to this report.