PLUMMER A NO-SHOW AT CAMP Tampa Bay conducted its first two of four mandatory mini-camp practices scheduled for this week at One Buccaneer Place on Tuesday morning and afternoon.
But not everyone showed up.
Bucs quarterback Jake Plummer, who has gone on record as saying he is retired from the NFL, did not show up for Tampa Bay’s mandatory camp practices on Tuesday.
Tampa Bay traded a 2008 seventh-round draft pick to the Denver Broncos in exchange for Plummer. However, if Plummer were to report to the Bucs that seventh-round pick would become a fourth-rounder.
If Plummer fails to report to training camp, his $5.3 million base salary will not count against Tampa Bay’s salary cap. The Bucs can also attempt to go after the 32-year old quarterback for as much as $7 million in bonus money he received from Denver should he not come out of retirement and play for the Buccaneers.
“I’m not going to answer any of those questions,” Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said regarding Plummer. “That’s for front office people to talk about. I’m going to coach the guys that are here. We really like what [Jeff] Garcia’s doing; [Bruce] Gradkowski’s doing very well at this point. We’ll coach the guys that are here and we’ll hope Jake shows up.”
Although it appears to be unlikely, the Bucs are still holding out hope that Plummer will report to training camp in July.
“We’re talking about Jake Plummer here, so we’ll reserve a roster spot for the ‘Snake’ for a little while longer,” said Gruden. “If it was Jake Jones or Jake Johnson or Jake Gruden we’d probably bypass the holding pattern that we’re in right now. This is one heck of a football player that has accomplished a great deal. At this point he’s retired and hopefully at some point he changes his mind or reconsiders. Until then, we’ll coach the guys that are here and move on with it.”
And if Plummer does decide to change his mind and play for the Bucs this season, he’ll apparently be welcomed with open arms by his teammates, including the quarterbacks.
“I did think about it yesterday about how crazy it would be if he showed up, but I’m not too worried about that,” Gradkowski said of Plummer. “If he was here, hey, the better it is for our team. We’re trying to get better this year. Whoever we have to bring in to do that, the better we’ll be.”
In the meantime, Gruden seems pleased with the group of quarterbacks he has to work with.
“I love Garcia, I like what he’s doing a lot.,” said Gruden. “I just think he’s got some traits that we haven’t had around here – his mobility, his experience. He’s been very, very good here. Gradkowski’s getting better, obviously. I think he completed all 11 of his balls [this morning]. Simms is a work in progress right now; he had a serious injury. Count on him being ready for training camp. And Luke McCown, another guy who missed the whole season last year with a knee injury, is rounding back into shape. So we feel pretty good about where we are at quarterback.”
And Garcia feels pretty good about how he’s fitting in to Gruden’s version of the West Coast offense.
“I think it’s right up my alley,” said Garcia. “We’re going to do anything and everything that will allow me to be productive in this system. That means moving the quarterback, that means utilizing the West Coast system and what it all brings as far as progression is concerned and being able to go through my progressions from the number one through the number three receiver. Those are the things that I do well. I’m accurate with the football. I feel like I make good decisions. I’m not going to turn the ball over. Those are things that are important in order for this offense to grow and be consistent on Sunday and do what they need to do in order to get the ball in the end zone.”
INJURY UPDATES Bucs cornerback Brian Kelly (toe) and defensive end Simeon Rice (shoulder) were both held out of Tuesday morning’s workout, but Kelly practiced during the afternoon session and has been deemed healthy.
“He’s a pro. He looks good,” Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said of Kelly. “He looked good earlier in the OTAs. He hasn’t been gone the entire offseason. But he’s healthy, I think he’s ready to go and he’ll make a big difference if he’s with us ready to roll. He’s a fine football player, we know that.”
Gruden isn’t the only one happy to have Kelly back.
“He didn’t work this morning, but neither did I (laughs),” Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber said of Kelly. “We miss him when he’s not playing. He’s a big part of what we do and he’s hard to replace, period. We’ve tried to put guys in there in the past when he’s been hurt, but we haven’t had the same kind of production.”
Gruden expects Rice, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, to be ready to go when the Bucs report to training camp on July 26.
“He’s in [the facility] and he’ll be ready for training camp and that’s the bottom line,” Gruden said of Rice. “He’s finishing up the final touches of his offseason rehab. If we needed him to go he could have gone, but we decided to keep him inside today.”
Five players – rookie guard Arron Sears, defensive end Charles Bennett, defensive tackle Darrell Campbell and tight ends T.J. Williams and Keith Heinrich – were held out of Tuesday’s practices. Offensive tackle Luke Petitgout, Barber and Kelly were limited in the morning but participated 100 percent in the afternoon.
Bennett sported an ice pack on his left knee and limped along the sideline during the morning practice. Williams is still recovering from the Achilles’ tendon tear he suffered a year ago. Campbell, who has had an impressive offseason thus far, is nursing a lower leg injury. Heinrich has an undisclosed injury.
Tampa Bay’s offensive line has been hindered by several players’ injuries. Center John Wade spent most of the offseason recovering from MCL surgery and just recently returned to practice.
Dan Buenning, who is recovering from season-ending ACL surgery, is making the transition from guard to center and is snapping the ball but is still limited in what he can do physically until training camp.
While Tampa Bay would like to have its starting offensive line intact, Gruden suggested the absences of Petitgout and Sears could actually help some of the younger players that are competing for roster spots.
“We want to see some other guys, honestly,” Gruden said. “Petitgout will go this afternoon. Sears is a guy that we’re taking care of some minor issues right now. He’ll be ready to go for training camp. This gives us an opportunity the last couple days to look at a couple different combinations and finalize a little bit of a depth chart before we go to camp. I wanted to see where some of the other guys were and today was a good indication.”
Gruden is encouraged by what he’s seen from his offensive linemen, but he’d feel a lot better about the position if some of his players were healthier.
“It’s disappointing because Arron has been limited here the last few days,” said Gruden. “Dan Buenning hasn’t practiced yet, although they say he will be ready the first day of training camp. We missed him last year; he wasn’t healthy all season. But I like what I see from the right side of the line, the right guard and right tackle are good players, getting better and Petitgout will help us. We hope that Sears will help us or we will change his name to Wal-Mart. Buenning has got to get better because he has to compete with Matt Lehr and John Wade at center and then if that all comes to reality then we will be better.”
BUCS MAKE SEVERAL ROSTER MOVES Tampa Bay made several roster moves on Tuesday, signing punter Sean Douglas and defensive end Jeremy Pittman.
Terms of those deals were not disclosed.
In order to make room for Douglas and Pittman on their offseason roster, the Bucs released linebacker Jerry Mackey and kicker Garrett Rivas.
Douglas played collegiately at the University of Washington. He averaged 42.8 yards per punt.
Pittman was one of Tampa Bay’s try-out players at the team’s three-day rookie mini-camp in May. He played collegiately at the University of Central Arkansas and Southwest Community College.
STOVALL PUSHING CLAYTON FOR STARTING JOB? Bucs wide receiver Michael Clayton exploded onto the scene as a rookie by catching 80 passes for 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns in 2004.
However, Clayton has struggled with injuries and dropped passes over the past two seasons. In fact, the former first-round pick has hauled in a total of 55 passes and just one touchdown over the past two seasons while missing 13 starts due to injury.
In the meantime, Tampa Bay’s 2006 third-round draft pick, WR Maurice Stovall, has had an impressive offseason and is apparently challenging Clayton for the starting Z (flanker) job.
“Clayton is a good player, but the guys around him are getting good, too,” Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said. “It’s going to be very interesting. I love Mike. He’s had a lot of injuries in the last couple seasons, hasn’t been able to finish the ’05 or ’06 seasons healthy.
“Maurice Stovall isn’t here to sign autographs on the sideline. He’s here to play and he’s going to get a great look here in the offseason. David Boston hasn’t caught a pass, I don’t think, in the NFL in three seasons. If there are two guys that have really worked their butts off, it’s those two guys. Mike Clayton, I think, sees that, realized that, and it will make for a very competitive situation here in training camp.”
The competition at receiver and several other positions has Gruden excited about going to training camp in July.
“I like it where there’s no battles,” Gruden said smiling. “You’d like to have the ’75 Steelers walk out here for five or six years. That would be a heck of a deal. But we do have competition. We do have genuine competition that’s going to make for a very exciting training camp, and that goes without saying.”
MANDATORY MINI-CAMP SCHEDULE The Bucs will hold their final two mandatory mini-camp practices on Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday’s practice will be held at Raymond James Stadium. Thursday’s workout will be held at One Buccaneer Place.
The mini-camp practices are open to the media but closed to the public.
QUOTE OF THE DAY Bucs head coach Jon Gruden when asked about QB Chris Simms’ lack of reps during Tuesday’s morning practice:
“Again, he’s coming off a serious injury. We want to take a look at Jeff Garcia. He’s getting the brunt of the work right now. And Bruce Gradkowski is performing very well. He’s a rookie quarterback that started 11 games and in my experience those guys do get better, and clearly he is. But Chris’ reps will increase when he earns it, when he gets back physically and when he starts moving our football team.”
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