Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bucs' Freeman confident he will play against Jaguars
TAMPA - Three quarters of the way through a season that will not end the way he hoped, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman has had to rearrange his priorities. Winning still is what matters most, of course, but after he was forced to miss last week's 38-19 loss to the Carolina Panthers because of a sore right throwing shoulder, Freeman says getting healthy is second on the list. "After that, I want to see us get back to executing the way we know we can,'' Freeman said. Though Freeman expected his throwing to be limited in practice again this week, he is confident he will be back in the lineup when the Bucs (4-8) take on the Jaguars (3-9) on Sunday in Jacksonville."We're planning to warm it up and try to throw a little bit (Wednesday) afternoon and gauge just where we're at, but ultimately the goal is to play on Sunday,'' Freeman said. While Freeman appears on the path to recovery, the same cannot be said of cornerback Aqib Talib, who left the Carolina game after only a few plays because of a hamstring strain. Talib expressed confidence Monday that he'll be ready against Jacksonville, but spent part of Wednesday having tests to determine the severity of his injury and did not practice at all. "We'll have to get a feel of where he's at,'' head coach Raheem Morris said of Talib, who has nursed the sore hamstring since midseason. "Friday will be a big indicating day for him and what he can do, so we'll see.'' The Bucs will move Myron Lewis into their rotation at cornerback if Talib can't play. They also will lean on Josh Johnson once again if Freeman has a setback either in practice or during the game. Johnson, who started against the Panthers, isn't necessarily 100 percent, either. He missed a play Sunday after dislocating his right shoulder, though trainers quickly popped the shoulder back into place. "He's definitely getting the iron-man award of the year,'' Morris said of Johnson. "I don't even think he grimaced, just went right back out there and threw a strike. And the locker room's been buzzing about it. "But that's the kind of guys we've got. And that's the stuff that you can smile at in the face of adversity because you know you've got guys who will play for you like that.'' Whoever starts at quarterback this week will work from a scaled-down version of the offense, something Morris has called for in an effort to break the Bucs' slump. Tampa Bay has lost six consecutive games and seven of its past eight. Morris hopes a more streamlined version of the offense and defense will spark an improvement in the level of play. Freeman thinks it's a good call. "The big thing has been attention to detail,'' Freeman said. "Everybody's got to kind of step that up and limiting the menu is going to allow us to do that. It's going to allow us to focus in on some things. "We got the game plan today, and we still have quite a bit in there, but it's not the volume we might have had, say, last week or two weeks ago. So, it's good. I think it will allow our guys to go out and play faster.'' The Bucs started the season fast, winning four of their first six games. Now, they're hoping to finish it fast. That's one of Freeman's other priorities for the final month. "It's been an up-and-down year,'' Freeman said. "We have to get back and give ourselves a jump-start and get some consistency going at the end of the year here and just hope that rolls on."
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