The second-year quarterback threw for 182 yards and two touchdowns Sunday, helping the Bucs come from behind to beat the Cleveland Browns 17-14.
It's the first opener Tampa Bay has won since 2005, when the team got off to a 4-0 start. And while it's gratifying, especially considering the team didn't win for the first time last season until early November, coach Raheem Morris stressed it's one game.
"This team is not going to take a bow for a win," Morris said Monday, clarifying a comment he meant when said during his postgame press conference that the victory meant "absolutely nothing."
"They're not going to take a backseat, either. We really enjoy wins, and we want to get them. But we're not going to go out there and get our first win and get all giddy and be all excited. ... Our job is to get better and get ready for our next opponent."
Freeman completed 17 of 28 passes and was intercepted once in his first action since breaking the thumb on his throwing hand when he banged it on the helmet of a pass rusher during Tampa Bay's second preseason game.
He was held out of practice for two weeks before returning last Tuesday, when he took snaps for the first time since Aug. 21. When the thumb swelled, the Bucs limited him the rest of the week to ensure he would be able to play against the Browns.
Freeman, who started nine games as a rookie last season, was not available for comment on Monday. Morris and offensive coordinator Greg Olson said he came through Sunday's game fine.
"No setbacks," Morris said. "We'll figure out how much he practices ... how many snaps he takes" in preparation for Sunday at Carolina.
"It was a real gutsy performance in my opinion," Olson said, adding Freeman also was involved in a minor car accident last Friday.
"Everybody's body reacts differently. It was a clean break, but it was a break and it wasn't healthy," the offensive coordinator added. "He came out and played with pain."
Freeman, 22, wasn't the only young player who contributed to the victory.
Rookie receiver Mike Williams caught a 3-yard touchdown pass and led the Bucs with five receptions for 30 yards. Third-year pro Micheal Spurlock had his first career receiving TD, catching a 33-yarder that turned out to be the game-winning score.
Meanwhile, seven of the team's eight picks from this year's draft were active for the opener.
"It's nice to get a win in Week 1 as opposed to November. ... Sometimes when you don't win in a few games, you start forgetting how to win. When you win right off the bat, it builds confidence and guys know what they have to do to win," veteran linebacker Barrett Ruud said. "It certifies that what you're doing works."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press