Freeman to start season opener

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St. Petersburg Times (Florida)

St. Petersburg Times Staff Writer

TAMPA — By 6:30 a.m. Monday, Bucs QB Josh Freeman was in the trainer’s room receiving treatment and icing his fractured right thumb.

The Bucs say it will heal enough for Freeman to start the season opener against the Browns on Sept. 12, but he still will have to play with pain, GM Mark Dominik said.

Freeman broke the tip of the thumb on his right (throwing) hand on the first series of Saturday night’s 20-15 preseason win over the Chiefs when it struck LB Tamba Hali’s helmet.

“He’ll have to play with some pain,” Dominik said. “It is a broken bone in his thumb, so he’s just got to let that actually fuse back together. But this week, he’s going to be extremely limited to almost doing nothing, just to give him a chance to really get his body healthy and move forward from there.

“Injuries are part of it, and you deal with that in every aspect of the game. You just continue to prepare the guys behind them, and I think our coaching staff has done a very good job with our two young quarterbacks in Josh Johnson and Rudy Carpenter. I think they both played their best game this last week, so you just have to prepare the guys behind them to step up if that were to happen. “

Dominik said the Bucs plan to sign another quarterback, but it won’t be veteran Jeff Garcia, who is with Omaha of the United Football League. Tampa Bay is expected to reach out to former Ole Miss QB Jevan Snead, an undrafted free agent who spent the offseason with the team.

Johnson is 0-4 as a starter, and Carpenter has never played in a regular-season NFL game.

“We’ll stay with the younger guy right now,” Dominik said. “If the situation were different, we maybe would approach it differently. But at the same point, the preseason is important for all the players, and Rudy Carpenter can’t get enough snaps. He’s done a good job. That’s only the third preseason game in his life. So he can take as many games as he can. Same with Josh Johnson, because at some point, you’ve got to be prepared to actually be able to play games, and the coaching staff has done a good job with those two players, and they can use all the reps anyway right now as we go forward.”

Dominik said he met with the coaching staff Sunday night and decided that they would play the starters – in this case Johnson – into the second quarter.

As for Freeman?

“The thing about Josh Freeman that probably a lot of people are concerned about, and we’re not, is that he has spent an inordinate amount of time with the offseason program here – every day he possibly could. Sure, it’s disappointing he may not be able to practice this week. But the kid has made a lot of progress throughout the whole offseason. I’m confident where he’s at.”

Morris sick: No one could blame coach Raheem Morris for feeling queasy after watching Freeman leave the game Saturday. But this was worse than that.

Morris had a stomach illness and had to cancel his 1 p.m. news conference Monday. He arrived at the facility but was unable to leave his office to speak with reporters. Dominik filled in.

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