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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Freeman: Bucs need better communication on offense

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Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 06:14 PM
TAMPA -

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman was given a chance on Monday to get away from it all and just forget about his miserable five-turnover performance in Sunday's 41-0 loss to the Saints.

He passed.

So did several other Bucs players. But the fact Freeman was among those who refused to take Greg Schiano up on his offer of a day off is why the Bucs coach isn't too concerned about Freeman's off day at the office on Sunday.

"If Josh weren't coming in and spending all kinds of time here and if I was not getting texts from my coaches at 10 o'clock at night asking about coverages and things like that, then yes I would be concerned,'' Schiano said.

"But I know that everybody goes through better times and lesser times, and I know that those who persevere and work and tend to their knitting are going to be fine. And Josh has been tending to his knitting.''

Freeman knitted together one of the worst games of his career during the loss at New Orleans, throwing four interceptions, including two inside the Saints 27-yard-line, and losing a fumble.

Coming on the heels of a shaky first-half performance in a loss to the Eagles the week before and a sub-par effort against the Broncos three weeks ago, the outing has Bucs fans questioning Freeman's status as their franchise quarterback.

If Schiano is asking the same question, he certainly didn't let on Monday, when he classified the team's outing and Freeman's part in it simply as a collective "clunker.''

"Very rarely is it just one guy's mistake,'' Schiano said.

Freeman's four interceptions can be attributed to combination of poor communication, poor execution and poor luck, Schiano said. One was a "pure breakdown in communication" between Freeman and receiver Vincent Jackson, who did not make the same adjustment to a Saints blitz.

"That shouldn't happen, and it doesn't happen very much, but that was one of them," Schiano said. "Then there were other ones where, to be frank, we're down by a lot of points and he's throwing the ball up hoping someone can make a play.''

One of those came four plays into the second half, when Freeman threw deep down the field for tight end Dallas Clark, hoping to spark a team that trailed 24-0 at halftime.

Freeman said Clark lost the ball in the lights, but took full responsibility for the other interceptions, including the communication breakdown with Jackson.

"Assignment-wise, it falls on me,'' Freeman said Monday. "I've got to communicate better. I've got to make sure everybody's on the same page. I have to make sure everybody's doing exactly what they need to do.''

Schiano agreed that Freeman has to communicate better, but wasn't about to let his receivers off the hook. He made it clear the responsibility for eliminating mistakes falls on everyone.

"There were some (interceptions) where we need to make sure that we throw and catch and route-run better, too,'' he said, "because when I watch some of the technical things Josh is doing, he's not as far off as it may appear.

"It's not like we found it (when we were winning and playing well) and now all of a sudden we've lost it. It's the process and we just have to keep moving forward and Josh will.''

The way Schiano sees it, Freeman took a step forward on Monday not only by passing on the day off, but taking responsibility for the interceptions that sparked the Bucs' downfall at the Superdome.

"You do like to hear your quarterback stand up here and say, 'That's' on me,' " Schiano said. "Again, I don't know if that's the case or not, because I don't think it's one man. I think it's everybody involved.''

Just about everyone was involved in some form on Monday, as well. Some dropped by One Buc Place simply to get in a workout or treatment for an injury. Some came by just to check in with coaches.

"We had a rough one on Sunday, yeah,'' Freeman said. "We dropped the ball, but how do we respond to adversity? When everything is going great, everybody can go to practice and have high energy level, be up-tempo, and then want to go home and study the game film because you're doing great.

"But it's times like these when you really forge the nucleus of your team. I think just judging by the number of guys that are in the building on this off day, I think mentally the guys not only are unified but facing in the right direction.''


rcummings@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7979 Twitter: @RCummingsTBO

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