Although an exercise in dueling statements didn’t break out on Monday night after Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman responded to the report that he’s in Stage One of the substance-abuse program, coach Greg Schiano responded in a Tuesday session with reporters.
Per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, Schiano said he’s “absolutely not” the source of confidential medical information being released about Freeman.
It’s not a surprising response, and it may indeed be technically accurate. The Bucs and Schiano would have had no reason to leak anything about Freeman on Monday, at a time when the Bucs are trying to trade Freeman.
The suspicion regarding leaks occurring by or at the behest of Schiano emerged last month, in the aftermath of reports of a players-only meeting that addressed, among other things, concerns about the legitimacy of the vote that resulted in Freeman no longer being a captain. That’s when negative information about Freeman began to percolate, such as the fact that he failed to show up for the team photo.
“Unfortunately, it appears that some people who may have noticed the [drug] testing at my workplace have made hurtful and incorrect assumptions and chosen to disseminate inaccurate and very disturbing information,” Freeman said in a statement released last night. That sentence sweeps far more broadly than Chris Mortensen’s report that Freeman is in Stage One of the substance-abuse program, and the leaks that occurred (if Freeman’s allegations are accurate) predated the moment at which the Bucs decided to trade him.
As we understand it, Freeman and his representatives suspect that Schiano or someone working for Schiano began spreading negative information and rumors about Freeman after Schiano’s counting of the captain votes came into question. If that was the plan, it initially worked; fans and folks in the media realized that players wouldn’t want Freeman to be a captain based on the things that were being discussed and reported.
But now, as Freeman tries to finagle a path out of Tampa with his salary paid and the ability to sign with anyone he chooses, those past leaks (if they happened) have become the basis for an attempt to pressure the Bucs to cut Freeman.
And cut him they should. Who cares if Freeman gets what he wants? The Bucs also will be getting what they need — and end to the drama and the distraction, and an opportunity to focus on the players who’ll actually be playing football for the organization.