Article from the Orlando Sentinel about Gradkowski. I like Paul Hackett's comment at the end of article. I think his is a realistic assessment of the immediate future.
Chris Harry | Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted September 28, 2006
TAMPA -- Ready or not, the Bruce Gradkowski era began Wednesday in Tampa Bay.
Gradkowski, a sixth-round pick from Toledo, officially took over as the starting quarterback as the Bucs returned to work for the first time since Chris Simms had emergency surgery Sunday to remove a ruptured spleen.
"There's a different beat," Gradkowski said after the first practice in his new role. "You have to step up your game a little. The guys are looking at you now. All eyes are on you."
Gradkowski, 23, became a fan favorite for his play in the preseason, playing much like he did in college. He set an NCAA Division I-A record for career completion percentage (68.2) and helped Toledo to a MAC championship along the way. He demonstrated some of that accuracy in August, going 45-of-61 (73.8 percent) for 511 yards with five touchdowns, three interceptions and a passer rating of 105.3 in four exhibitions.
"It's up to him now to put his own spin on the position and play to a level that helps us win games," said Coach Jon Gruden, whose team is off this weekend. "I thought his first day was pretty good. We had the [piped-in] crowd noise going. We gave him some different looks. We asked him to do some tough things, and he was able to do a pretty good job."
Practice is one thing. Scrambling for first downs and connecting on throws against fellow third- and fourth-teamers in August is another. But neither is remotely similar to what Gradkowski can expect Oct. 8 in his NFL starting debut at New Orleans (3-0).
"His time is now," Bucs quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett said. "You got no choice."
The Bucs' front office gambled with its backup plan in the event Simms went down, hoping Jay Fiedler could return from shoulder surgery. He couldn't and was waived. Gradkowski won the No. 2 job by beating out seven-year veteran Tim Rattay.
Now the winless Bucs are without Simms and must lean on a rookie to spark an offense ranked next-to-last in the NFL.
Tampa Bay didn't show it could run the ball with Simms. The Bucs are averaging 43.3 rushing yards, worst in the league. Tailback Carnell Williams has 107 yards on 42 carries. The Bucs' longest run from scrimmage is 11 yards.
Defenses will dare the rookie to beat them.
"I have to be confident, make good decisions and be a good leader," Gradkowski said. "But I also have a great supporting cast and guys to distribute the ball to. And I'm going to lean on those guys and let them make plays."
Gradkowski was summoned for mop-up duty in the season-opening 27-0 loss to Baltimore. When Simms left late in the third quarter against the Panthers, Gradkowski was in for two plays. His numbers so far: 2-of-6 for 20 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions and a sack.
So how do his teammates expect Gradkowski to play?
"This is the NFL. He gets paid like the rest of us, so we expect him to come in and play well," wide receiver Joey Galloway said. "We don't expect him to be Dan Marino. We expect him to be Bruce."
Hackett said it was an exciting time for Gradkowski and Tampa Bay fans. As for him?
"Oh, God!" Hackett said. "It'll be an adventure."http://www.orlandosentinel.com/sports/football/pro/buccaneers/orl-bucs2806sep28,0,4761456.story?coll=orl-bucs