The Tampa Bay Buccaneers can ill afford to lose any stars on offense. So when Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin left Friday night's game after taking a knee to the helmet, quarterback Josh Freeman's competence immediately came into question.
Fox analyst Ronde Barber, Freeman's former teammate in Tampa Bay, had a take that some might see as harsh yet some might see as obvious.
"If they get away from Doug Martin, they don't have the offense they're anticipating having this year," Barber said during halftime of the Bucs' 25-21 preseason loss to the New England Patriots. "Because Josh Freeman can't carry it by himself. We all know that. He's prone to mistakes. Doug Martin, he's the guy that puts the team on your back and you run with him."
Whether or not Martin misses any time because of his injury, the questions surrounding Freeman's ability to carry an NFL team will not disappear. He threw 25 touchdown passes and just six interceptions in 2010, leading Tampa Bay to a 10-6 record, but has a 43-to-39 TD-to-INT since then. The Bucs also are 11-21 during that time.
Bucs general manager Mark Dominik told reporters in January that the team is in "no hurry" to extend Freeman's rookie contract, which runs out after this season, and he made a similar statement re-affirming that stance in early August.
Freeman now has the rest of the preseason and the entire 2013 regular season to prove himself.