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News » Tampa Bay Buccaneers Inside Slant 2009-05-15

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Inside Slant 2009-05-15

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Inside Slant 2009-05-15
Luke McCown wasted no time declaring the starting quarterback job was his to lose.

"Absolutely," McCown said on the first day or Organized Team Activities. "This has been a long time coming for me and I'm not letting anybody take it from me. And it's the first legitimate opportunity. Say what you want about getting three starts at the end of a season.

"But this is my first real opportunity to be the starter, to be the guy. And I look at it as mine and you're going to have to shoot me."

McCown is among five quarterbacks under contract for the Bucs, a list that now includes first-round pick Josh Freeman and veteran Byron Leftwich.

Neither player was on board when McCown signed a two-year deal in February. But McCown said coach Raheem Morris made it clear from the start there was a possibility the Bucs could draft a quarterback in the first round.

"I wasn't surprised by it at all," McCown said. "What I love about Raheem is he shoots you straight. He's going to tell you what's going on. When I re-signed, that was the first thing he said to me. He brought me up into his office, showed me the board and said, 'This is what the depth chart looks like. Here's the competition you're going to be in. We've got the 19th pick. Who knows? All the experts say we're going to draft one (quarterback). Maybe we do. All you can do is go out, compete, and worst-case scenario, you perform well and we have to make a decision whether to keep you or trade you.'

"You can't do anything but respect him for that. So I anticipated that pick and we'll go from there."

On Tuesday, McCown split reps with Leftwich and Josh Johnson. Veteran Brian Griese is not expected to attend OTA's and expects to be traded or released. Freeman is unable to participate in offseason workouts until the semester ends at Kansas State later this month."

McCown, 27, is 1-6 as a starter with a career passer rating of 75.2, but four of the starts came as a rookie with the Cleveland Browns. In Tampa Bay, McCown completed 94 of 140 passes (67.1 percent) for 1,009 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions for a quarterback rating of 91.0. McCown's athleticism also enabled him to carry the ball 15 times for 132 yards, an 8.8-yard average.

"Nobody knew what New England had in Matt Cassel," McCown said. "You just don't know until you get out there and play, and not three games. You've got to play eight, 10, 12 games in a row to get that experience, to get that confidence, to get that respect, to be able to be vocal and be a leader. You have to earn things in this league and you don't earn them with just two or three good games. That just doesn't happen. You get a little bit of credit, but you've got to do it for a whole year."

Leftwich, 29, has started 49 games for the Jaguars, Falcons and Steelers in six NFL seasons. Outside of Griese, who isn't expected to be with the team by training camp, he has the most experience of any Bucs quarterback.

The opportunity to regain a starting job is what attracted Leftwich to Tampa Bay.

It's a competition," Leftwich said. "It is what it is. It's a competition - everybody wants to be the guy, we understand there's only going to be one guy. We're just going to work, work, and whoever wins, the best man will win."

Leftwich, a former first-round pick of the Jaguars, said he could relate to the pressures Freeman will face this season.

"I'm going to help (Freeman)," Leftwich said. "I remember when I was in that situation. It's a tough situation coming in as a rookie and playing and it's not as easy as it seems. I think sometimes you can look at what Matt Ryan and what (Joe) Flacco did last year and think it's easy. It's not easy. You can ask those guys. It's possible, but it's not easy."

What might make it easier for the Bucs' quarterbacks is their supporting cast. McCown said this year's offense has more weapons than any team he has played on in Tampa Bay.

"No question about it," McCown said. "You just look across the board. Not only that, but the depth that we have as well. We've got a chance to compete, we've got guys that are going to be able to step in and fill in when somebody has got a sprained toe and perform at a high level. When you look across the board as an offense and we can be very explosive."

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

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