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News » Let the best quarterback win


Let the best quarterback win


Let the best quarterback win
Luke McCown, Byron Leftwich open competition to become Bucs' starter.


By ROY CUMMINGS

rcummings@tampatrib.com

TAMPA - Just like Josh Freeman with the Bucs , Luke McCown once was someone's quarterback of the future. That's why McCown intends to fight like there's no tomorrow for the job that is supposed to eventually go to Freeman.

"When I was drafted by Cleveland [in 2004] they told me I was going to sit for two years and then I was going to be the guy," McCown said Tuesday after the Bucs' first Organized Team Activity. "So I [started] in four games as a rookie that year and then got traded.

"That taught me that plans are just that. They're plans. And all you can do is focus on the opportunities you have today, which is what I'm doing. I'm doing my darnedest to make sure nobody else plays my position this year."

If someone else plays quarterback for the Bucs this year, it probably won't be Freeman. The plan is for the 2009 first-round draft pick to watch for a year and take over the offense, perhaps, in 2010.

A plan like that probably wouldn't sit too well with a lot of quarterbacks, but McCown is fine with it, largely because he knew this scenario was likely when he opted to re-sign with the Bucs two months ago. First-year coach Raheem Morris told him so.

"When I signed my contract, he took me to his office, showed me the depth chart and said, 'We've got the 19th pick [in the draft] and all the experts say we're going to draft a quarterback," McCown said.

"So I anticipated that. And you know, that's what I love about Raheem. He shoots you straight. He's going to tell you what's going on. I mean, you can't do anything but respect him for that."

McCown, 27, also respects the fact the Bucs added a veteran free agent with starting experience to compete for the starting job. If Byron Leftwich is to win that job, though, McCown says he won't go down without a fight.

"I look at it like this is my job and you're going to have to shoot me to take it away from me," said McCown, who is being afforded his first real chance to start at the NFL level.

Since coming to the Bucs in a draft-day trade in 2005, McCown has played in seven games, starting three. What he has now, he says, is the chance he has always wanted to prove he is a starting-caliber player.

Leftwich, 29, is looking to prove the same. Though he was Jacksonville's starter his first four years in the league, the former first-round pick has been relegated to backup duty the past two years with Atlanta and Pittsburgh.

And like McCown, Leftwich signed with the Bucs knowing a decision to draft Freeman to be the quarterback of the future was likely. Still, the opportunity he saw for himself was too much to pass on, he said.

"All you can ask for as a player is to have an opportunity to play if you prove you're better than everybody else," Leftwich said. "Once I realized I had that opportunity here, I had to jump on it.

"I mean, the toughest thing in the world is to be in a situation where no matter what you do, you don't have a chance to get out on that field. They assured me there would be a true competition here."

(CHART) TALE OF THE TAPE

McCOWN VS. LEFTWICH

12 Games 54

75.2 QB rating 80.3

142 Completions 842

238 Attempts 1,438

1,617 Yards 9,624

59.7 Comp. pct. 58.6

9 TD passes 54

10 Interceptions 38

27 Sacked 85

5 Fumbles 31

Reporter Roy Cummings can be reached at (813) 259-7979.

Photo credit: Tribune file photo by JAY CONNER (2008)

Photo: Luke McCown

Photo credit: Getty Images file photo (2008)

Photo: Byron Leftwich

Photo credit: Getty Images

Photo: Quarterback Luke McCown has played sparingly since being drafted by the Browns in the fourth round in 2004.

Copyright ? 2009, The Tampa Tribune and may not be republished without permission. E-mail library@tampatrib.com



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 15, 2009

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