With Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman not throwing during the portion of Thursday’s practice that was open to the media, you have to start wondering if he’ll be able to play Sunday against Carolina.
Freeman suffered a right shoulder injury at the end of last Sunday’s loss to Tennessee, coach Raheem Morris said. Freeman was limited in Wednesday’s practice.
Freeman has not missed a start since taking over the job midway through his rookie season. But it now appears possible that streak could end at 36 games.
If it does, backup Josh Johnson would get the start and the Bucs likely would activate Rudy Carpenter from the practice squad to be the No. 2 quarterback.
Johnson is a completely different style of quarterback than Freeman. First off, Johnson is much smaller at 6-foot-3, and he’s listed at 205 pounds. When you see Johnson in person, you wonder if that weight might be a little inflated. Johnson’s not a classic drop-back passer, and he definitely doesn’t have the same arm strength as Freeman.
But Johnson’s biggest strength might be his running ability. He’s exceptionally fast. Before he was drafted by the Bucs in the fifth round in 2008, Johnson’s 4.44-second 40-yard dash was the best time of any quarterback at the scouting combine.
The Bucs have used Johnson, 25, in the Wildcat formation at times this year and he’s run five times for 17 yards. He also has attempted seven passes this season, completing two for 14 yards.
Johnson came out of the University of San Diego and was chosen as Most Valuable Player in the 2008 East-West Shrine Bowl.
Johnson’s most extensive playing time came in 2009, the year the Bucs drafted Freeman. Tampa Bay’s plan was to bring Freeman along slowly, and the Bucs opened the season with Byron Leftwich as their starter.
That didn’t last long. On Sept. 27, 2009, Johnson replaced an ineffective Leftwich and went on to start the next four games, before Freeman took over. Most of Johnson’s career passing stats came in 2009.
He’s completed 53.4 percent of his passes for 810 yards, four touchdowns and eight interceptions. The Bucs likely would adjust their play-calling to take advantage of Johnson’s running ability if he does have to start.
Johnson also could be looking at extra incentive if he gets a start or two. He has said he aspires to be a full-time starter at some point. That’s not likely to happen in Tampa Bay as long as Freeman is around.
But, if Johnson gets to play and makes the most of it, that could help him down the line. Johnson is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after this season.