QB Freeman and Bucs ready for regular season
''It really is practice. You want to get tuned up and ready for the regular season,'' said Freeman, who will not play in Thursday's preseason finale at Washington. ''You want to work on your base stuff, get the offense gelling together. As far as what the preseason is for, we got that accomplished.''
The discomfort and apprehension the 23-year-old quarterback took into last season, after breaking his thumb in the preseason opener, is gone.
''I feel a lot more prepared,'' he said. ''Last year at this time I could barely even grip a football. It was definitely a nervous time, very anxious going into that first game. This year everybody's healthy, everybody's ready to rock and roll.''
Freeman finished his preseason with 26 completions in 46 attempts for 255 yards after missing several open receivers in Saturday night's 17-13 win over Miami.
''Obviously, with more playing time you're going to hit some of those throws you might have missed in the Dolphins game,'' he said. ''With reps, everything continues to get better. I'm really excited about where we're at.''
Starting his third NFL season, the 23-year-old Freeman is working with several skill-position players that are even less experienced. Starting wide receivers Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn were rookies a year ago, and 1,007-yard rusher LaGarrette Blount didn't sign with the Bucs until Sept. 6.
''Last year (at this time) Free didn't throw a ball in the preseason and LaGarrette Blount was a Titan,'' noted coach Raheem Morris.
Blount's preseason numbers are even more pedestrian than those of Freeman, and the Bucs have yet to show any resemblance to the rushing attack that finished eighth in the NFL. Backup quarterback Josh Johnson is Tampa Bay's leading rusher through three preseason games.
''I'm not really worried about it,'' Freeman said. ''It's a matter of getting LaGarrette cranked up, and the preseason is tough because you only get a couple drives and you have to make the most of 'em.'' Veteran center Jeff Faine said he felt progress.
''We put a couple long drives together. It wasn't exactly what we wanted, but I think it's going in the right direction,'' he said. ''I don't know how much we can tell by the preseason, but I think it's on track.'' Freeman wrapped up his exhibition season with a long touchdown drive just before halftime Saturday night.
''Those are the things I really look for in the preseason,'' Morris said. ''Some teams can do that. That's the beauty of having Drew Brees and Tom Brady; those guys can wake up and go 15-for-15 for 132 yards and have a 110 quarterback rating and everything looks great. Free's working his way there and he'll be there soon enough.''
Notes: The Bucs cut their roster to 80, releasing cornerback Ashton Youboty and waiving nine players -- wide receivers Aundray Allison, Jock Sanders and Detron Lewis, cornerback Vince Anderson, tight end Collin Franklin, defensive end Brandon Gilbeaux, fullback Rendrick Taylor punter Robert Malone and guard Brandon Carter. Carter was waived/injured.