Josh Freeman had secrets. The operative word here is “had.”
On Oct. 2 the Tampa Tribune reported that Freeman had been fined multiple times for various infractions, including conducting an unauthorized interview on Sept. 26 and missing two meetings on Oct. 4.
Players get fined all the time, what’s the big deal?
Well, the Tribune report sites confirmation from a “Bucs source,” which is kind of illegal according to league policy. Freeman’s agent, Erik Burkhardt, was quick to point this out via Twitter.
Had this been the only instance of a breach of trust, it might have been swept under the rug. However, this followed an ESPN report from Chris Mortensen revealed that Freeman was a stage-one participant in the NFL’s drug testing program. Freeman almost immediately released a statement on the reason behind his testing:
“I have ADHD and I have been prescribed and permitted to take medication to treat this condition for the entirety of my NFL career,” Freeman said. “Well over a year ago, I took a different medication for the same condition (Ritalin rather than Adderall) , and to assure everyone that the error was a one-time mistake, I agreed to be voluntarily tested in the ‘NFL Program.’ Since that time, I have taken and passed all 46 drug tests I’ve been given, which test for every drug and banned substance imaginable.”
Once again, this information is confidential and it is a violation of league policy to reveal it. Mortensen’s report sites “league and player sources with knowledge of his status.”
“Unfortunately, it appears that some people who may have noticed the testing at my workplace have made hurtful and incorrect assumptions and chosen to disseminate inaccurate and very disturbing information,” Freeman said.
That quote from Freeman seems to once again indict someone within the Buccaneers organization as the culprit behind the leak.
The news doesn’t look good for the Tampa organization either. The NFL Players’ Association has said that it will be “coming after everyone” involved in this investigation. Ironically, this quote came from an unidentified “league source.”
The Freeman saga hasn’t been pretty by any stretch of the imagination. Freeman has been criticized, benched and cut, and probably rightfully so.
Freeman’s 45.7 completion percentage and three interceptions to just two touchdowns were bad definitely not enough to overshadow his off-field issues, like missing team photo day on Sept. 2. Freeman should have been benched and, if his team believed that Mike Glennon was the answer at quarterback, he should have been cut as well. There’s no point in dragging it out.
However, the externalization of this problem that should have stayed relatively within the organization is “shameful,” as Greg Doyel wrote.
“There’s something shameful, despicable really, about linking Freeman’s legitimate medication to the loaded phrase “drug program” and then leaking that to a media outlet for the transparent purpose of making Josh Freeman look like the bad guy in his very public feud with [Greg] Schiano,” Doyel wrote.
This feud doesn’t indicate a broken or dirty organization as much as it proves how dirty business can be, especially when that business is as lucrative as the NFL. This isn’t the first time players have been slandered over fines and suspensions (i.e. Saints “Bounty-gate” scandal) and it probably won’t be the last.
Freeman is no angel, but he is the victim here. The battle seemed more about how much money the Buccaneers might could recoup from Freeman once a trade was deemed impossible, but that’s just how it works. Had the Buccaneers followed the path laid out by the collective bargaining agreement (cut him or trade him) then he is just a one-hit wonder quarterback that regressed. Instead, Freeman can compete with Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel for the starting job in Minnesota while the Buccaneers buckle down for what could be a very uncomfortable investigation.