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Josh Freeman is suddenly getting praise from Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano

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(USA Today Sports Images)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman is hard to figure out.

He was cruising along in 2012, having a very good fourth NFL season. He was a main reason the Buccaneers had a four-game winning streak and were in the playoff race. Then Freeman played horrendously down the stretch, the Buccaneers lost five in a row, and the team had to wonder what it had with him. The drafting of Mike Glennon in the third round was an eye opener. Glennon was the second quarterback selected in this year's draft. Freeman is in a contract year. The dots aren't hard to connect.

Perhaps realizing that putting that kind of pressure on an inconsistent 25-year-old quarterback, Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano is making sure to put out the message that Freeman has nothing to worry about when it comes to a quarterback battle.

"We only have one," Schiano said on NFL Network, via NFL.com. "It's Josh Freeman."

If there's talk of a quarterback controversy in Tampa Bay this season, the Buccaneers can't complain too much. When you draft a quarterback before the Jaguars do (disclaimer: Jacksonville may not yet realize you need a quarterback to play football), you're sending a clear message that you need help in that area. But the Buccaneers needed to do it, just in case Freeman doesn't earn a new contract this season.

And now Schiano has to smooth things over.

"I believe in competition, and Mike Glennon is going to be a tremendous quarterback in his time," Schiano said. "But we have a quarterback, it's Josh Freeman. He had a really good spring. I think it's really coming together, being in this system for a second year now and hearing the things over again after being able to study it, I'm really encouraged.

"I know Mike Sullivan, our offensive coordinator, he's encouraged. We're looking forward to big things. Josh is going to have a big year."

Some of that public pep talk is transparent, but necessary. Tampa Bay is much better off if Freeman plays like he did in 2010 or for the first 10 weeks of 2012, and Glennon is just a nice insurance policy. The Buccaneers are an intriguing young team, but only if Freeman is a franchise-type quarterback.

One way or another, we should have a pretty good read on who the real Josh Freeman is after this season.

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