Commentary | NFL players union files grievance against Tampa Bay Buccaneers, launches investigation into Freeman leaks

October 2, 2013 

Buccaneers Patriots Football

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman watches from the sideline in the fourth quarter of an NFL preseason football game against the New England Patriots Friday, Aug. 16, 2013, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

MICHAEL DWYER — AP

TAMPA

"I am not a crook," President Richard M. Nixon, November 1973, re: Watergate.

"Absolutely not," Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano, October 2013, re: whether he is behind Josh Freeman's public character assassination.

In whom do you believe?

Players' union executive director DeMaurice Smith was in Tampa on Tuesday and didn't offer any support for Schiano or the Bucs.

The union is looking into how information on Freeman's enrollment in an NFL drug program was leaked and how the Bucs dealt with former kicker Lawrence Tynes, who contracted MRSA at their facility.

As the Bucs' head coach, Schiano has the most to gain if Freeman is perceived as a malcontent and troubled young man.

A lot of people, including Tony Dungy, the most respected football person in the Tampa Bay area, said Schiano's benching of Freeman last week was not warranted.

Schiano said Tuesday he didn't appreciate being accused of leaking information on Freeman's medical issues.

"I know what I've done, and I am 100 percent comfortable with my behavior," Schiano said.

The National Football League Players Association has filed a grievance on behalf of Tynes, and Smith said there was enough information available that Freeman's rights might have been violated.

"I think we are sufficiently concerned about what we've heard to begin an investigation," Smith said. "If we have a concern that the rules have been intentionally broken then no one is going to be exempt from the consequences."

There is one point that is hard to dismiss.

Until a story surfaced

that Schiano denied Freeman his captaincy by rigging a vote by players, there were no negative rumors about the quarterback.

Now they are all over the place.

In another disturbing development, Freeman was ordered out of the suite he shared with his family to watch the Arizona game Sunday. He paid for it, but he was escorted out by team officials who made him sit in a suite for inactive players.

It raises speculation that someone is trying to make Freeman implode so the organization would have a reason not to pay his $6.4 million salary. The NFL is not taking the leak of Freeman's medical information lightly. It violates the league's agreement with the union over drug-testing confidentiality.

Freeman said he suffers from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and has been given permission by the NFL to take Adderall to deal with it.

He said he mistakenly took Ritalin one time, which resulted in a positive test, but that he volunteered for the NFL substance abuse program to demonstrate he has not broken any rules. His statement came after information about his enrollment in the program was leaked.

Freeman said he believes someone in the Bucs organization leaked the information. The list of suspects is small because only a few people are familiar with his case.

In his four-plus years with the Bucs, Freeman has never publicly blamed any teammate or coach when he played bad.

He always spewed the company line no matter how boring. In his only public interview since his benching Freeman, didn't even blame Schiano, though he said he disagreed with the coach.

But leaks have sprung all over One Buc Place, painting Freeman as an irresponsible person.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 7056. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.

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