When Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman took the podium Wednesday for his afternoon press conference, he was not aware of the harsh criticism bestowed on him by Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton.
One brave reporter, Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune, spoke up. “He said you were ‘God-awful.'”
He raised his eyebrows, and took one long nod, as if to accept the criticism, even if he didn’t necessarily agree with it.
“Obviously he’s Fran Tarkenton. His career speaks for itself. He’s a Hall of Famer. But at the same time, everybody’s entitled to their own opinion. The important thing is, the people in this building — coaches, teammates — they’ve got faith and they know who I am as a player.”
Tarkenton told Tampa Bay ESPN affiliate WDAE, “He plays sometimes at a nice level…I’ve watched him, and I’ve watched him a lot. He just plays God-awful. That’s who you are, right? That’s who you are.”
Tarkenton also said Freeman “wasn’t going to make it” as a starting NFL quarterback because there are still question marks about him as he enters his fifth year.
It’s not the first time Freeman’s heard criticism, but coming up on a contract year, it appears it’s never been this loud or quite this harsh.
He’s chosen to insulate himself from it and focus on the things he can control. Anytime there’s something said about him publicly, he’s usually the last to know about it.
“You know it’s funny. I really just don’t pay much attention to anything outside of my [family and friends]. Obviously there are some huge things going on in the world that you need to be aware of.”
Freeman continued, “But for the most part, I’ve got my friends and my family — that’s really the focal point. I focus on me, I focus on the things that I can control, and I don’t pay much mind to anything else.”
His father Ron, who played in the USFL, taught him an important lesson back in high school, a lesson he still carries with him today.
“You can’t let anybody pollute your thought process…telling you you’re great or telling you that you’re awful…either way, you know who you are. You’ve got to go after that.”