Bucs hope Orlovsky will push Freeman at QB
TAMPA, Fla. (AP)
In his first seven years in the National Football League, Dan Orlovsky was often in the wrong place at the wrong time.
His 12 NFL starts have come with the 2008 Detroit Lions (0-16) and last year's Indianapolis Colts, who lost their first 13 games before Orlovsky started in a couple of December victories. Now the 28-year-old quarterback is with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who will carry a 10-game losing streak into the upcoming season.
The Bucs aren't asking Orlovsky to turn things around, but they are hoping he might help to turn around starting quarterback Josh Freeman.
''I know what my role is,'' Orlovsky said. ''My role is to be Josh's backup and, if needed, to be ready to play at a high level, winning football. I'm confident in that. It's also my role to make sure he's as prepared as he can be.''
The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Orlovsky had some impressive numbers for the Colts, starting the last five games of a season destroyed by Peyton Manning's neck injury. He completed 30 of 37 passes for 353 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-24 loss to New England. But when Indianapolis drafted Andrew Luck with the first overall pick, Orlovsky knew that door would close. He signed with the Bucs (No. 26 in the AP Pro32) on March 15, not as the starter but as a voice of experience.
''We wanted an established pro that was going to add value to the room,'' said coach Greg Schiano. ''When you talk about a quarterback room, quarterbacks are like no other position. That room really is a think tank - coaches and players. And you want to make sure that everybody in that room can add value.''
Orlovsky has the value of having thrown passes to Houston's Andre Johnson and Detroit's Calvin Johnson, two of the NFL's best receivers. Texans coach Gary Kubiak taught him ''a whole new perspective on what it means to play quarterback, how to practice as a quarterback, how to carry yourself as a quarterback.'' Then he got to spend a year around Manning, who impressed Orlovsky with ''the demand for excellence, the high, high, high standards of excellence, the expectations that he asks of the people around him.''
''That's also part of what I'm trying to give to Josh, in a sense,'' he said.
Freeman, entering his fourth NFL season, has not been around a veteran quarterback since Byron Leftwich started the first three games of his rookie season. That didn't seem like a problem a year ago when Freeman was coming off a 10-6 season in which he threw 25 touchdown passes and only six interceptions. Last year those numbers reversed to 16 touchdowns and 22 INTs, no small factor in the Bucs' miserable 4-12 season.
''As far as the game goes, he's good and he could be great,'' Orlovsky said. ''That's part of my role to make sure I do what I can to get him there, but also knowing that if called upon, to go out there and play winning football.''
Much of his time on the field figures to be in the preseason, which opens Friday night at Miami.
''It's my time to go play, sure,'' said Orlovsky, who will be running his seventh different offense. ''Being new here, I'm just going to go out and run the offense; it's important for me to gain guys' trust, gaining this team's trust and this coaching staff's trust. I'll do that by doing my job. It's fun to go out and play and compete, so I look forward to that.''
NOTES: The Bucs released cornerback Derrick Roberson on Wednesday, and defensive end Jayme Mitchell left the team. Cornerback James Rogers and defensive tackle Teryl White, first-year players, were added to the roster.
Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL