The Buccaneers came out of Sunday's 24-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints with a few banged up players, but none with season-ending injuries. Quarterback Jeff Garcia incurred an ankle sprain during the game but was able to finish the contest. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden also updated the status of linebacker Derrick Brooks and wide receiver Maurice Stovall, who left the game with a hamstring strain and neck stinger respectively.
"Derrick Brooks has a strained hamstring and his status for this game is questionable," Gruden said. "Maurice Stovall left the game early and his status for the game is questionable this week. Jeff Garcia has an ankle sprain. I guess he got rolled up a little bit on it late in the game. His status for the game will be questionable as well."
Brooks, the all-time franchise leader in tackles, is second to quarterback Brett Favre among most consecutive games started by active players. Brooks has 193 straight starts for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That streak could come to an end this Sunday, but Gruden was taking a wait and see approach.
"We have the capability to move people around a little bit," Gruden said. "Cato June could end up being the Will (weakside) and we could move Quincy Black into the Sam (strongside) position. Let's see where Derrick is in the next 24 hours and we'll put our contingency plans in place if need be."
Stovall could be replaced in the lineup by wide receiver Michael Clayton. Clayton was inactive for Sunday's game with Stovall getting the nod due to his contributions on special teams. Clayton could make his first appearance of the season this Sunday against Atlanta.
"We wanted to have Mike up, but we had five receivers dress," Gruden said. "Dexter Jackson was up for return purposes. Maurice Stovall is a dynamic special teams player, which we felt was very important in this game. As you know, Ike, Joey and Antonio Bryant were the three guys who started in our three receiver sets. We'll see Mike play hopefully this week. We'll let you know."
Since the 2008 campaign started, Garcia has been plagued with injuries that have restricted him. He missed the majority of training camp with a calf strain. That injury led to him playing in only one preseason contest. Last week, Garcia was added to the injury report with a jammed pinkie on his right hand. At some point in the game Garcia was victimized again.
"I haven't seen him today," Gruden said. "He's got swelling on the ankle. He's going to be questionable. That's the knowledge I have. Obviously, he's had the calf, then he had the pinkie and now he has the ankle."
Gruden stopped short of prognosticating if Garcia would be able to play, but it appears that the decision on Garcia is coming soon. Tampa Bay wants to give their starting quarterback enough time in practice preparation for Sunday's home opener. If Garcia is unable to practice on Wednesday the Buccaneers could chose to start one of the backup quarterbacks Brian Griese or Luke McCown. Griese was the backup quarterback for the game against the Saints, and McCown was the third string. They had battled for the backup spot during training camp and the preseason.
"We have to give the quarterback reps," Gruden said. "We have to get wired in and we'll do that in the next 24-48 hours. We'll make sure we get all the information we need to do what gives our team a chance to get back to 1-1 and win our first football game.
"Brian is ready to go, and I'm confident Luke is ready to go. If we choose to go in that direction, we'll let you know."
Garcia's injury was news to several of the Bucs players. McCown was unaware of the injury until the media asked him about in the locker room at One Buc Place.
"Yeah, this is the first I've heard of it," said McCown. "So we'll see what it is.
"I haven't heard anything about Jeff. I haven't seen him today. As far as I am concerned he's fine. He walked off the field fine and he walked in the locker room fine. I don't know anything, so I'm sure Brian is the same way that we approach today and tomorrow and the rest of the week like we would. Unless we are told otherwise we approach it preparing to play. That is our job as backups."
With Garcia missing so much practice time in training camp and reps in the preseason game, backups Griese and McCown were able to take advantage of the opportunity and be more prepared than a typical backup quarterback would be. McCown saw that as a real advantage for them should they enter the lineup.
"Certainly, I think it helps," said McCown. "At any moment in time that Brian and I were asked to play or needed to play it is certainly a positive that we have gone through training camp with the amount of reps and practice that we've got through training camp and the preseason."
The downside to the backups getting so much practice was Garcia not getting enough work leading up to the season opener. Gruden answered the question of whether Garcia's mixed performance was a result of him being rusty after missing the preseason games with his calf injury.
"It wasn't just Jeff missing preseason games, he missed a lot of training camp and missed a lot of work, period," Gruden said. "Looking at a lot of the quarterbacks that played yesterday that were inactive (in the preseason), I pray Tom Brady is going to be okay. Peyton (Manning) played last night after not being under center. I know (Tim) Hasselbeck has had issues with his back. It's a tough game. You can call it rust or inactivity, but there were plays there that Jeff normally makes. Unfortunately, we just didn't get it done.
"I don't know what rust is really. What can I say? I don't know what it is, really. New Orleans is a good football team. It's a loud, very difficult place to play in your opener. He missed a couple of throws he normally hits. I've got to do a better job of helping him. I thought we ran the ball extremely well. Unfortunately, we had two holding calls and a 15-yard personal foul penalty that put us way behind in the down and distance. It took us out of a run-it mentality. We had the two two-minute drives at the end of each half. We feel like we did some great things running the ball. We had some good looks in the passing game. We just have to convert some of those early third downs to get the momentum going. We have to start better. It's a credit to our guys to hang in there and answer two of New Orleans' scores with scores of themselves. That last drive of the game was a good drive. It put ourselves in position to win the game. I thought Zuttah had a good game in his first game as a Buc. I was impressed with Antonio Bryant in his first game as a Buc. It was Jeff Faine's first game (as a Buc). B.J. Askew hasn't played a lot of football for us, either. There were a lot of positive things from an offensive standpoint. We have to score more points to win and to dominate – there's no question about it. We'll do everything we can to get it right this week."
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