Tampa Bay Buccaneer left tackle Donald Penn, who has protected Josh Freeman's blind side for every game of Freeman's career, said the embattled fifth-year quarterback is being unfairly maligned.

Penn will take a streak of 93 consecutive starts into the 2013 season and sounded confident Freeman will rebound from a December slump that coincided with Tampa Bay's late-season stumble to a 7-9 finish.

"Quarterback is not always a glamorous position,'' Penn said during last week's Super Bowl festivities in New Orleans. "It's glamorous when you're in the Super Bowl – then you're the best thing since sliced bread. But plain and simple, to be a good quarterback, you need a good team.

"The two best quarterbacks in the league weren't playing in the Super Bowl. The two best teams played in the Super Bowl. We need to be a good team for Josh.''

Freeman, who turned 25 in January, set career highs by throwing for 4,065 yards and 27 touchdowns, but was intercepted four times apiece in consecutive losses to New Orleans and St. Louis before Tampa Bay closed with a 22-17 triumph at Atlanta.

"When we win the Super Bowl, Josh will be getting all the endorsements,'' Penn said. "He'll be on all the talk shows, getting all the love. We were so close last season, and we weren't a complete team.

"I'm looking forward to this coaching staff with a year under their belt. I know Greg Schiano is sitting down every day dissecting the season. That makes me excited as a player, knowing how much work my coach is putting in to make it right. We're going to be a serious team to deal with next year.''

The Bucs appear to be in no rush to work out a long-term deal with Freeman, whose rookie contract ends after the 2013 season.

"I know what some fans are saying about Josh,'' Penn said. "It's part of the game. As quick as they turn, that's how quick they will turn right back. This has happened to a lot of quarterbacks. Josh is growing up faster than he's supposed to because of the situation, and he's handled it very well.