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Buccaneers’ Freeman hopeful of returning this week

FRED GOODALL, AP Sports Writer
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NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 27:   Josh Freeman #5 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers throws a pass against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on November 27, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee.  The Titans defeated the Buccaneers 23 to 17.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

NASHVILLE, TN – NOVEMBER 27: Josh Freeman #5 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers throws a pass against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on November 27, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Titans defeated the Buccaneers 23 to 17. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman says his injured throwing shoulder is improving and that he hopes to be able to play Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Nevertheless the third-year pro was limited practice Wednesday, when he did some light throwing while backup Josh Johnson worked with the first-team offense.

Freeman was injured on Tampa Bay’s final offensive play during a 23-17 loss at Tennessee two weeks ago. He sat out last Sunday’s 38-19 loss to Carolina, ending a stretch of 36 consecutive starts.

Johnson made his first start since 2009 against the Panthers. The fourth-year pro left the game for one play in the second quarter, and coach Raheem Morris said Wednesday that was because the quarterback separated his non-throwing shoulder and returned after having it popped back into place.

“I don’t think he even grimaced,” Morris said, adding that Johnson wasn’t affected the remainder of the game and will be prepared to start again if Freeman is unable to play at Jacksonville.

Freeman described his injury as a bruise suffered when he dropped the snap on a fourth-and-1 quarterback sneak that Tennessee stopped for no gain, sealing the Titans’ victory. He said he landed awkwardly on his right elbow, jolting his shoulder.

“Obviously, he’ll be a day by day guy. We’ll see what he’s able to do (Thursday). We’ll have a chance to evaluate him on Friday, obviously Saturday and Sunday,” Morris said of the prospect of waiting until the weekend to make a decision on Freeman’s status. “Obviously he’s a lot better this week than he was last. We’ll get a chance to see where he can go and if he can go the next couple of days.”

The Bucs (4-8) have lost six straight games and seven of eight overall following a 3-1 start.

Freeman said before practice Wednesday that he planned to warm up, but doubted he would actually do much — if any — throwing in practice because team trainers want to “take it slow.” Still, he believes there’s a realistic chance he can play Sunday against the Jaguars.

“Continually it’s gotten better. It started out extremely painful, just standing around. But my movement’s greatly increased,” the quarterback said. “I’ve thrown the ball a few times and it’s just day to day gotten better. If we can continue on this pace, and I really hope we can, I’ll play.”

Johnson threw for 229 yards, one touchdown and an interception against Carolina. He also led the Bucs in rushing with 45 yards.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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