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Bucs QB Freeman not beyond growing pains

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Dan Parr
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Posted Sept. 30, 2011 @ 1:54 p.m. ET
By Dan Parr

Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman gave observers very little to be critical of last season. He improved dramatically in almost every facet of the game and led the Bucs to a surprise 10-win season.

The early portion of this season, however, has served as a reminder that Freeman is 23 years old and still doing a lot of learning. Hitches in his development have been rare. He's one of the best young quarterbacks in the game, but decision making, consistency and mechanics are still things he struggles with at times.

After throwing 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions last season, he has thrown four picks through three games. He has thrown an interception in the endzone in back-to-back games and we hear the coaching staff is concerned that he's forcing the ball into tight windows too much. Those concerns have been voiced to Freeman by coaches and he's open to and accepting of criticism. We hear that Freeman is working just as hard as he did last season and is still very much a film-room junkie. However, the sense from some who have watched his entire pro career is that he might be feeling a bit overconfident. He's taking chances that he didn't in similar situations last season.

The Bucs would like to see him take better care of the ball, but they certainly don't want to see him play with any less confidence. That confidence is a big part of the reason why Freeman is such a respected leader. He has made a habit of engineering fourth-quarter comeback victories and it has instilled a strongly held belief throughout the team that the Bucs are always a few plays away from getting back into a game, even when they're trailing late.

CB Ronde Barber has spent his entire 15-year NFL career with the Bucs and is 13 years older than Freeman, but we're told even he yields to Freeman when the situation calls for one player's voice to be heard.

This is Freeman's team. He's the leader of a group that's young and hungry. "Youngry," is the word head coach Raheem Morris has come up with to describe it.

Getting back to something Freeman did so well last season — limiting turnovers — will be a key for him as the Bucs look to surprise the NFC South for a second consecutive season.

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