WESLEY CHAPEL - Quarterback Josh Freeman capped off the final session of his football camp Thursday by lauding the talent level of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster and the sense of camaraderie spreading through the locker room.
More than 200 youngsters attended Freeman's two-day camp at Wesley Chapel High School, where he was aided by a group of coaches and his father, Ron.
"There's a few things you circle on the calendar every year,'' Freeman said. "This was our third camp and it's such an awesome event. I couldn't wait to come back, teaching football and life lessons.''
Freeman put up some impressive numbers in 2012, setting franchise records for passing yards (4,065) and touchdown passes (27). But he also threw nine of his 17 interceptions in the final three weeks and the Bucs faded down the stretch, losing five of their final six games to finish 7-9.
Tampa Bay's offense ranked No. 9 in the league last year and the defense has added All-Pro defensive backs Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson during a dynamic offseason. Entering the final season of his five-year rookie contract, Freeman is excited about the possibilities.
"Looking back, I can't think of another team I've been on at any level that floor-to-ceiling is this talented,'' Freeman said. "You can go from the offensive line to Doug Martin in the backfield and receivers like Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. And I would say I feel a lot more confident in this offense, ranging from the terminology to situational football.''
According to Williams and Jackson, Freeman appears more comfortable in his second year learning the nuances of coordinator Mike Sullivan's offense. Sullivan worked on Tom Coughlin's staff in New York and has implemented some of the same principles utilized by the Giants.
"It's one thing to watch clips of Eli Manning and Victor Cruz and another when you're watching film of your guys and how we look,'' Freeman said. "This system isn't easy to master by any stretch, but at the same time, we don't have ordinary people teaching it to us. Sully knows how to get across what we are doing and exactly why we're doing it.''
Earlier in the day, Freeman was asked about his contract status on WDAE-620 AM.
"Yes, it's a big year,'' Freeman said during the radio interview. "Professionally, it's the biggest year I've had, and I play the best football when I'm relaxed. My identity is set. I know who I am. I love being a Buccaneer, I love my teammates and coaches and I'll cross that bridge (contract extension) when I come to it. There's no added pressure, no anxiety.''
Freeman's message to his junior campers was simple and direct.
"I tell them give it all you've got and you can rest your head at night,'' said Freeman, 25. "Life's not all about sports. Football is a huge part of it, but family and friends - that's what life is all about. Why I think we'll be so successful this year is because everybody believes in each other.
"Coach (Greg Schiano) hands out these bracelets that say 'family' on it. What it comes down to is what you're willing to sacrifice for the good of the team. The more you're around One Buc Place, it's spreading. You can see it. If we as a team do what we're capable of, the personal accolades will come. We're definitely heading in that direction.''