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As the end of the week draws near, the possibility of Buccaneers injured quarterback Chris Simms being placed on the injured reserve list appears to be growing.

Bucs head coach Jon Gruden hasn’t given much indication as to whether or not that would be the case until Thursday, when he hinted that Simms’ roster spot was in jeopardy.

“I don’t have a crystal ball, but obviously he’s had a very serious injury,” Gruden said of Simms. “There’s a good chance that his season isn’t going to continue. But then again, I can only go on what I’m hearing from the medical people and they update us each night. And as of right now, his status hasn’t really changed. Other than that, he is making a recovery and it’s going to take some time.”

Waiting in the wings to possibly step into Simms’ roster spot should he be placed on IR is third-year quarterback Luke McCown, who was picked up from Cleveland last season via a draft day trade.

McCown, returning from a ACL tear he suffered in June, has been practicing with the team under an NFL rule that states the Bucs have 21 days to evaluate his progress before making a decision on what to do with him. When that 21-day period ends this Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET, the team has three options, cut him, place him on injured reserve or activate him on the 53-man roster.  

Signs point to McCown being activated.

If that is the case, is McCown ready to play?

“It’s closing in on that,” Gruden said. “I don’t know if he’s ready to take snaps in a game. His timing, his rapport with the offense has been out of touch for some time, but physically, he looks like he’s ready to get back out here and compete.”

McCown spent the last six games of 2005, and one playoff game, as the team’s backup quarterback, a role he would likely resume when healthy enough. Sixth-year pro, Tim Rattay, has been the Bucs’ only other active, available quarterback, other than starter Bruce Gradkowski, over the last four games. That second-string role isn’t likely to change in the immediate future considering McCown is still feeling his way back into live action.

While the team has until Tuesday, a decision on whether or not to activate McCown could come as early as Friday.

Bucs rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski says he feels a little more comfortable heading into this week’s game for two reasons. One, he has faced the Saints before and two, the team will be playing at home in Raymond James Stadium, where Gradkowski is 2-0 as a starter.

Another reason the rookie quarterback should feel more comfortable is because of the vote of confidence he continues to get from Gruden. On Thursday, Gruden said Gradkowski is “going to be the quarterback here, it looks like, for some time.”

“We’re very excited about Bruce’s progress,” Gruden added. “If we knew he was this good, we wouldn’t have waited around to the sixth round [to draft him].

“He is going to do some really good things before it’s all said and done.”

That being said, Gruden stressed how important divisional games such as Sunday’s are to the team. He said they were “paramount” and that this week is a must win for the Bucs get out of the cellar in NFC South. A win would also help the team wrap up the second quarter of the schedule with a 3-1 record after starting the first quarter 0-4.

Gruden stressed the importance of not looking back on the negative things that happened in recent losses.

“We don’t get those opportunities back,” Gruden said. “We don’t get a chance to punt the ball to Reggie (Bush) back either. We don’t get a chance to catch a dam ball in New York either. Those things are done so we’re not going to dwell on it.”

Linebacker Shelton Quarles (knee) returned to practice Thursday while defensive linemen Ellis Wyms (ankle) and Simeon Rice (shoulder) both missed practice.

All three players are listed as questionable for Sunday’s game while cornerback Juran Bolden (hip) is probable.

Chris Simms (splenectomy) is out

Running back Reggie Bush (ankle) and wide receiver Joe Horn (groin) are both among players listed as questionable for the New Orleans Saints.

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