Martin Fennelly Columns
Freeman 'gun mishap' par for Bucs' season
TAMPA - "No more shooting guns in season." I think that's going to be the title of the 2011 Bucs highlight film. But, first, it was what Bucs starting quarterback Josh Freeman on Wednesday. If that doesn't sum up 2011, I don't know what does.You'd think that as bad as it has been going, Freeman would want no part of being around loaded weapons. I bet I know exactly what the Bucs management thought, eyes closed, when 5 told them about it. Please don't say you were with Talib … please don't say you were with Talib … Ah, the old "gun mishap." Add this to Freeman's odd descent from being the "Next Big Thing" to visibly average. No. 5 needed five stitches in his already sprained throwing thumb after an "unexpected recoil" from a gun he was using at a local firing range on … yes … Halloween night. "It wasn't the smartest decision, but you've got to live with it," Freeman said. The Bucs play the Panthers on Sunday. Reporters asked rookie Heisman winner and Carolina quarterback Cam Newton about his astounding passing and rushing skills. Meanwhile, here was one of the questions for Freeman. "What kind of gun was it?" "It was a Desert Eagle," Freeman said. Yeah, this is what you want at 4-7. We're glad No. 5 is all right. He's a good person. He was humble and contrite and a little shaken as he talked about his gun play. He's not Lee Harvey Freeman. I don't know if this incident truly changes the way I look at him, except to say he's 23 and that can be a dumb age for anyone. I still say he's the guy to lead the Bucs out of this mess, though not this season. Freeman apparently got a good talking-to from team general manager Mark Dominik, as if Dominik has any right to pipe up after bringing back Quick Draw Aqib. Actually, Dominik does have a right, and so 5 has a new rule. All together now: No more shooting guns in season! Of course, the Bucs, who always err on the side of the bunker, never mentioned the incident until pressed about it Tuesday. Things always seem worse when you try and make secrets out of them. You'd think this franchise would have learned that by now. You'd think Freeman would know better, too. I'd like to say that the Bill of Rights speaks to the right to bear arms, though I don't know if that's any guarantee against being called to begin popping off a few rounds when your shootin' thumb is already sprained. Freeman stressed that the injury was purely cosmetic, a scratch, but who do we believe after the cover-up? He's an NFL quarterback. The thumb bone is connected to the throwing bones. People want to know. He owes them that. Elsewhere in the NFC South, Saints quarterback Drew Brees is carving up anything that moves. Matt Ryan has the Falcons winning. And then there is Newton. Josh Freeman? He's a punch line right now. He should have known better – he has to know better. He's up on a podium every Wednesday for the media while every other Buc stands at his locker … or doesn't. Freeman is the standard bearer, on this team and in this community. This was supposed to be a next-level kind of year for Freeman, where he built on his astoundingly good 2010. Instead, his quarterback rating has dropped and interceptions are everywhere. Funny, but even with his woes and the Bucs' five straight losses, Freeman hasn't been inaccurate, with nearly a 63 percent completion rate since the trip to the gun range. Still, that's an extremely silly place to be with a bad thumb. It's sillier still to hide it. Now, I'm all kinds of worried about Freeman owning snakes. He's apparently into them. Great, just what we need one day: a bandaged throwing shoulder and us wondering whether it was normal wear and tear or if the Gaboon Viper got out. Let's laugh about it a bit. It's not a federal case. This isn't Plaxico Freeman. Onward. Ready ... aim ... Panthers. And watch that recoil. As if 4-7 hasn't been enough of one.