|Quarterback Josh Freeman has emerged as the Bucs' clear-cut leader this offseason. (Kim Klement/US Presswire)|
The young quarterback has taken charge during the NFL lockout by organizing his own player-only practices in Tampa.
He made a special request of veteran tight end Kellen Winslow, who spent last offseason rehabbing in Southern California, to be present at the workouts. Winslow didn't hesitate.
"There is no question he is the leader of this football team," Winslow told The Tampa Tribune this week.
Said Winslow: "He's the dude. I'm not leaving him. If it's my decision, I'm never leaving him. I want to play with him until he retires. I wouldn't want to play with anybody else."
Freeman's daily workouts have brought in more than 30 Bucs, something coach Raheem Morris is thrilled about from a distance while forbidden from communicating with his players during the lockout.
"I'm fired up for Freeman," Morris said. "That's the type of leader we brought here and I had no doubt in my mind he would be doing that type of thing. It's not shocking to me. It's kind of expected from the standpoint of business as usual for that guy."
Freeman repeatedly brought his team back in tight games last season, throwing 25 touchdown passes and just six interceptions while guiding the Bucs to a 10-win campaign and narrowly missing the playoffs.
Following his 2009 rookie season, Freeman made the decision to embrace his leadership role, according to The Tribune. He logged hours with Bucs coaches, watching film daily and learning the position.
"I took it upon myself to have no reason not to be a leader," Freeman said. "I wanted to take that role upon myself. You have to step in and do the work. As a leader, you have to clean up your yard before you start talking about other people's yards. I made sure to have all my stuff in order.
"I was hoping to put a good product on the field. Guys followed that. If I'm not playing good football or taking care of business, how can I be a leader? I just feel like it's my job as a quarterback to take care of business."