TAMPA – The Bucs didn’t want QB Josh Freeman to play behind an offensive line without LT Donald Penn, who signed a six-year, $48 million contract on the first day of training camp.
Ironically, Freeman broke the tip of his right thumb in Saturday’s 20-15 win over Kansas City when his hand struck the helmet of LB Tamba Hali, who beat Penn to the inside.
Freeman will miss the remainder of the preseason but is expected to play in the regular-season opener against the Browns on Sept. 12.
Penn was critical of his performance.
“I didn’t play very well,” Penn said. “I need to go watch film and see my mistakes and fix them and see what (Hali) saw that made him play different. He played different than he did against Atlanta (in the preseason opener). I need to make sure I’m not setting up wrong.
“It wasn’t a matter of him manhandling me. But I do need to work on some things. It’s good, I think. This is what the preseason is for. And Tamba Hali, he’s a good defensive end. It’s not like he’s some slouch. But I need to get all this out of me in the preseason so this doesn’t happen again.”
KNEE ISSUES FOR SMITH: RB/KR Clifton Smith sat out Saturday with a rare sort of inflammation that has been likened to gout.
It’s not clear what is causing the inflammation in Smith’s knee, but the Bucs expect him to return to the field this week. The team is off today before practicing Tuesday.
When Smith does make it back, it won’t be a moment too soon. He missed last week’s preseason opener, too, and he admits he’s in a fight to make the final roster just two years removed from his Pro Bowl appearance as a rookie.
Smith is fighting off WR/KR Micheal Spurlock and RB Kareem Huggins, two young players with respected return ability who also are progressing as position players. Smith, meanwhile, has a history of fumbling when used as a running back.
Smith is running out of time, too. The Bucs are down to one meaningful preseason game, Saturday against the Jaguars. The preseason finale the following week at Houston will be dominated by backups and fringe players.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR FREEMAN?: Freeman will be in a splint and unable to throw the football for 2-3 weeks.
But Freeman said Saturday that he will do everything in his power to keep from getting rusty.
“I know that with the staff we have, coaches and trainers, I’ll be back ready to go,” Freeman said. “It’s not like I’m going to be sitting on my butt doing nothing.
“I’m still going to be working on my footwork, which is obviously a big part of accuracy. I’m still going to do footwork drills, still running, still getting the mental part of the game. And I have a young arm, so I should be able to come out and wing it.”
Times staff writer Stephen F. Holder contributed to this report.
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