TAMPA — Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano said Tuesday that he played no role in ESPN's report that quarterback Josh Freeman is in Stage I of the NFL's substance-abuse program.
“Absolutely not,'' Schiano said when asked whether he leaked the information.
After the ESPN story broke Monday evening, Freeman issued a statement confirming his participation in the program. Freeman, 25, said he is dealing with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and has the NFL's permission to use Adderall.
Schiano said it was unfortunate the information was made public and bristled at any suggestion he was the source of the leak.
“Certainly, that's not what you want to happen at all,'' Schiano said, referring to the public airing of Freeman's private medical information. “Alluding to the accusation, I don't appreciate that, either.
“At the end of the day, it's not a good thing and you keep moving forward.''
Hours later, DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, said the union is preparing to launch an investigation into the matter.
“We have a collective bargaining agreement that mandates and protects confidentiality and privacy,'' Smith said after meeting with Tampa Bay players at the team facility. “If we believe that any member of the team management, or anyone from the league, has deliberately taken steps to thwart that privacy and to breach that confidentiality, this union will take every step, file every grievance and pursue any law to rectify that.
“We are sufficiently concerned about what we've heard to begin an investigation. I believe the league has the same interest that we have in trying to determine what happened.''
Asked for his overall reaction to Monday's report and Freeman's subsequent statement, Schiano declined comment.
“By NFL rules, I really can't comment on that,'' he said. “I know what I've done and I'm 100 percent comfortable with my behavior.''
Schiano benched Freeman in favor of rookie Mike Glennon last week and the Bucs saw a 10-0 lead dissolve in Sunday's 13-10 home loss to Arizona, dropping Tampa Bay to 0-4.
Another twist in the saga came Tuesday evening, when Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reported the Bucs told Freeman not to attend a team meeting, possibly to give teammates the impression Freeman missed the meeting.
Bucs general manager Mark Dominik, however, said that he excused Freeman from the team's 7:45 a.m. meeting, its first of the day, so Freeman could speak privately with Schiano about his ADHD reveal.
The conversation, however, did not take place until after 9 a.m., after a mandatory NFL meeting for players, Dominik said.
Freeman participated in all other activities on Tuesday, including what Schiano called a “jog-through.”
Seeing Freeman at the facility, Schiano said, is not uncomfortable.
“I understand the business end of the NFL and I believe he does, as well,” Schiano said. “It's not uncomfortable for me and I don't believe it is for him with our own relationship.”
Schiano confirmed that Dominik is in discussions with other teams, attempting to accommodate Freeman's request to be traded.
“I think we have a strong locker room,'' Schiano said of the danger of potential distractions. “Our guys are locked in on what we need to do. We have a football team that's very angry about how we started the season and we're trying to get it rectified.''
After the general meeting with Bucs players Tuesday afternoon, Smith huddled briefly with Freeman in private.
“We believe it's important to maintain confidentiality,'' Smith said. “I appreciate the manner in which Josh has handled this personally because he is a good young man. But this is a bigger issue about what's right with respect to the relationship between player and management. And when those issues come to bear, this is a union that will stand up for its players.''
Reporter Roy Cummings contributed to this report.