TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Josh Freeman’s preseason is over, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can only hope his injured thumb doesn’t lead to another slow start when the real games begin.
The second-year quarterback, out of Kansas State, fractured the tip of the thumb on his throwing hand during the opening quarter of Saturday night’s 20-15 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. He will be sidelined at least until the opening week of the regular season.
Freeman’s backups, Josh Johnson and Rudy Carpenter, each threw for a touchdown. Micheal Spurlock scored on a 53-yard reception in the second quarter, and Carpenter snapped a fourth-quarter tie with a 5-yard throw to Terrance Nunn.
The third quarterback selected in last year’s draft behind Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez, Freeman made nine starts as a rookie following Tampa Bay’s 0-7 start and won three of them. The 3-13 finish was Tampa Bay’s worst since 1991, however Freeman’s progress the second half of the season spawned hope for a brighter 2010.
One of the top offseason priorities was surrounding the 22-year-old with more playmakers. One of two receivers the club selected in the draft, fourth-rounder Mike Williams, already has moved into the starting lineup and had three receptions for 44 yards against the Chiefs.
Freeman appeared to hit his hand as he followed through on a pass intended for tight end John Gilmore on second-and-5 from the Chiefs 13. He walked off the field holding his thumb after throwing an incompletion on third down, with the Bucs settling for Connor Barth’s 31-yard field goal.
Freeman played two series in Tampa Bay’s preseason opener at Miami, completing all four of his passes for 53 yards and one touchdown. He was 2 of 4 for 21 yards Saturday night, including a 16-yard completion to Williams on third-and-3 to set up the first points of the game.
Johnson played the remainder of the first half, going 6 of 10 for 113 yards and the touchdown to Spurlock, who twisted out of the grasp of Kansas City’s Brandon Flowers at the Chiefs 40 and raced up the sideline to the end zone for a 10-7 lead.
Matt Cassel rebounded from an unimpressive showing in Kansas City’s exhibition opener to completed 14 of 19 passes for 125 yards and no interceptions. His 6-yard TD pass to Jeremy Horne finished a 47-yard scoring drive that rookie Javier Arenas set up with a 53-yard kickoff return.
Kansas City’s Thomas Jones rushed for 29 yards on eight carries. Jackie Battle led the Chiefs with 59 yards rushing on 11 attempts.
The Chiefs also lost a player to injury. Reserve cornerback Maurice Leggett suffered a neck injury and was carted off the field late in the third quarter.