Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman trimmed his hair and lost 20 pounds during the offseason, however the young quarterback’s makeover is far from complete.
The fourth-year pro reported to training camp feeling good about highly visible changes to his physical appearance. Now, he’s focused on making some adjustments on the field to improve his performance.
Freeman was the third quarterback selected in the 2009 draft behind Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez. He established himself as one of the NFL’s up and coming passers two years ago when the Buccaneers narrowly missed making the playoffs with a 10-6 record, then regressed while the team was stumbling to 4-12 in 2011.
The Bucs finished last season on a 10-game losing streak. A year after having one of the league’s best touchdowns-to-interceptions ratios with 25 TDs and only six picks, Freeman threw for 16 touchdowns vs. 22 interceptions.
“Last season a lot of things didn’t go our way. Personally, a lot of things didn’t go my way,” the 24-year-old said. “But in that, there’s a lot to learn from the standpoint of trying to step out of the system, trying to make too many plays, trying to do things when in actuality, as a quarterback, the offense is going to get you there.”
Freeman’s struggles were only part of the reason Tampa Bay faltered following a 4-2 start. The defense got progressively worse, yielding an NFL-high and franchise-worst 494 points and ranking 30th among 32 teams in yards allowed.
“Last year we had a lot of breakdowns in a lot of areas,” Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph said. “Up front, I don’t feel like we played good enough to help Josh. There are a lot of players who could have done better for Josh. We need the offense and the defense to play well for Josh to play well.”
The collapse cost former coach Raheem Morris his job. Greg Schiano replaced him in January and hired former New York Giants quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan as his offensive coordinator and Ron Turner as the team’s new quarterbacks coach.
The 6-foot-6, 237-pound Freeman was already pondering ways to get better before team ownership brought in Schiano. He got together with personal trainer Grant Gregory, who’s also the quarterback who followed him at Kansas State, adjusted his diet and trimmed about 20 pounds off reporting weight of a year ago.
It all began with a conversation with former Bucs offensive coordinator Greg Olson.
“We talked about a number of things, one of which was trying to be at your best, trying to be a pro at everything, not just football, but in your life, lifestyle habits,” Freeman said.