TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are ramping up their efforts to shop beleaguered quarterback Josh Freeman. The most logical question to ask next is this: Do they have anything worth buying?
At this point, no. This divorce keeps becoming uglier by the day, and there are no winners. Not the Bucs, who benched the five-year veteran in favor of rookie Mike Glennon last Wednesday. Not Freeman, who admitted in a stern statement Monday night that he has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder after medical information was leaked in a report that revealed he’s a Stage One participant in the NFL’s drug program. Not any potential trade partners, who must wonder why the Tampa Bay situation has become so bizarre, so fast.
FOX Sports NFL Insider Alex Marvez confirmed Tuesday morning that the Bucs are
calling around the league, trying to move Freeman, trying to move past
this embarrassing episode. One general manager texted him and said, “They don’t have much to sell.”
Likely, that GM is not alone in that opinion. That’s a problem for the Bucs, for Freeman, for anyone who wants to see this sad divorce end as soon as possible.
The worst part: Resolution appears far, far away.
Let’s hope that’s not the case. The leak of Freeman’s medical information feels like a line crossed. It feels dirty, slimy and sad. No matter the source, or the motive, this has become personal. It never had to be this way.
Just look to last season, when Alex Smith was benched in favor of Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco, to see how these transitions should go. Both sides handled an awkward situation as best they could, without any mud flung, and Smith was awarded with a trade to the Kansas City Chiefs last March.
Most importantly, Smith’s image never took a hit. The same can’t be said for Freeman. What NFL team will want him now?
Place the medical knowledge aside. He has refused to speak to local media, if even to wish Glennon well. He has undermined his franchise by giving an unauthorized national television interview in which he said a trade would be best for him. He was seen in a corridor outside the Bucs’ locker room deep in Raymond James Stadium following the game Sunday, likely knowing his presence alone would create a sir. Then he walked to a nearby parking lot refusing comment.
He’s not the lone party to blame in this mess, of course. The Bucs never gave him the best chance to succeed. In fact, it’s justified to say they failed him. Remember, Freeman threw for a franchise-best 4,065 yards and 27 touchdowns last season. He had 25 touchdowns and a career-low six interceptions in 2010. He was always inconsistent, never as smooth as the league’s elite at his position. But something changed.
Him? Greg Schiano? Other outside factors? Perhaps all of the above.
Schiano didn’t offer much Tuesday, when asked about the latest twist in the Freeman saga. He said he wasn’t “at liberty to comment on that per NFL rules.” He said he was “absolutely not” the source of the leaked medical information.
“I know what I’ve done, and I am 100 percent comfortable with my behavior,” Schiano said. “A hundred percent.”
Freeman, for his part, was a quick exit from the locker room again and didn’t comment. Running back Doug Martin called the situation “unfortunate” but said the quarterback is doing fine. Long-snapper Andrew Economos, an eight-year veteran and the longest-tenured player on the team, admitted concern about the leak.
“Does it concern me? Yeah, that kind of stuff is for the player, personally, to deal with,” he said. “I’m not sure exactly what happened, so I can’t really speak to it. But if someone’s personal information came out … that’s tough, because they’re dealing with it on a personal level.
“I don’t know his situation, but it’s definitely not something that I think is someone else’s responsibility to tell the public.”
On Sunday, after the Bucs’ loss to the Arizona Cardinals, I asked Tampa Bay players about Freeman. They supported him, as you would expect teammates to do. But offensive tackle Demar Dotson put it best when he placed collective blame for the spiral.
“You feel bad for Josh, because it’s a team sport,” Dotson said. “We didn’t do enough to make it easy on Josh. Whatever the outside world wants to put on him and wants to say it’s his fault, it’s not his fault.”
That’s the best way to add some clarity to a situation that includes too much fog. Football, at heart, is a team game, each part responsible for the whole. At some point, it became Bucs vs. Freeman, for whatever strange reason. That’s wrong.
It’s sad, too. Nothing about this is enjoyable. Nothing about this feels right or complete or good. Someday, hopefully soon, Freeman will have a fresh start elsewhere. Someday, hopefully soon, Tampa Bay will have one too.
Do the Bucs have anything worth buying?
For everyone’s sake, let’s hope someone believes they do.