On Monday, Chris Mortensen of ESPN reported that Bucs QB Josh Freeman is in stage one of the NFL substance abuse program. Participation in the program is supposed to be confidential at that stage, so someone violated the terms of the agreement. The interesting question, however, isn’t who leaked the information (the information most likely came from someone within the Bucs organization), but why.
Obviously, the situation between Freeman and head coach Greg Schiano has become untenable. Freeman has asked to be released or traded, and Schiano has not only benched Freeman, but essentially banned him from the sideline during games. The conventional wisdom as to why Freeman remains a Buccaneer at this point is that the team is waiting until closer to the trade deadline, to see if a team has a significant injury at the QB spot, so that they can extract a higher return for Freeman’s services. If that’s the case, why would the Bucs leak Freeman’s status in the substance abuse program? While the leak probably fulfills some petty wish to smear Freeman, it also serves to undercut Freeman’s value on the trade market.
In the wake of the leak, Josh Freeman issued a statement wherein he explains why he is in the program, and that he has passed every drug test he’s taken. Via Pro Football Talk, we get some of the statement:
Since the confidentiality of my medical status has been publicly violated, I am choosing to address this matter so that grossly erroneous assumptions about me do not persist. Like millions of Americans, I have ADHD and I have been prescribed and permitted to take medication to treat this condition for the entirety of my NFL career. Well over a year ago, I took a different medication for the same condition (Ritalin rather than Adderall) , and to assure everyone that the error was a one-time mistake, I agreed to be voluntarily tested in the “NFL Program”. Since that time, I have taken and passed all 46 drug tests I’ve been given, which test for every drug and banned substance imaginable. I agreed to allow such testing to be done at my workplace (team facility) because I spend all of my time there and I have nothing whatsoever to hide or be embarrassed about.
Oddly enough, Freeman’s statement not only clears the air about his status in the program and restores his good name, but it also helps buoy his trade value. If Freeman’s participation in the substance abuse program is as innocent as his statement makes it seem, then the perceived risk for a potential trade partner for Tampa is relatively low. He’s a voluntary participant in the program, and has remained clean for a significant period of time. Those facts should help to alleviate any concerns another team has about Freeman’s likelihood to reoffend. All that said, anything that facilitates Freeman getting traded is good for both Freeman and the Bucs. So, the question remains who leaked Freeman’s status, and why? It seems that the Buccaneers organization is struggling with front office strategy as much as the team is struggling on the field. Hopefully this situation is resolved in the near future, to the betterment of all involved.