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Bucs quarterback Chris Simms on how his second pro start didn’t go as well as planned: “It was a tough-fought game. We had our chance there at the end, and I jut made a mistake. They fooled me a little bit with the coverage and that was that.”
Simms on the offense’s woes in the first half: “It was the story of this whole year. It was always something that went wrong. We just have to learn to be more consistent. That’s just the way football goes. If you’re not consistent on every play, you’ll get your butt kicked.”
Simms on WR Michael Clayton’s 75-yard touchdown catch and run: “Mike Clayton, without question, has been the NFL’s best rookie receiver this year, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He does all phases in the game and he’s going to be a great player for years to come.”
Simms on Clayton’s drop on fourth-and-2 toward the end of the game: “I can’t feel bad for him. Well, I feel bad for him, but I’ll never be mad at him, especially for what he does for our team every play. Hey, mistakes are going to happen, and he made more than his fair share of plays for our team this year. One mistake doesn’t mean crap.”
Simms on his plans for the offseason: “I’ll probably take this first week off or two weeks off. I’ll go up to New Jersey and see my family and work out a little bit. I’ll be back here in Tampa in mid-February getting ready for next year.”
Bucs rookie WR Michael Clayton on if he’d trade all of his rookie records for a winning season: “Definitely. We just tried to come out and finish this season with a bang. This game is exactly what our season has been about — mistakes, fumbling the ball and turning the ball over. You just can’t expect to win when you do that. Coach Gruden said it best when he said he was glad that we got all of this stuff out of the way in one season.”
Clayton on Tampa Bay’s lack of running game: “Offenses start with the running game. It opens a lot of things up. People game plan for our running game because it can kill somebody. It’s just that deadly. Teams really prepare for our running game because they really know that it’s potentially dangerous.”
Clayton on his rookie season: “I just wanted to play hard and whatever happens happens. I didn’t know that I was going to get the opportunity this early. Due to injuries and a holdout, I got an opportunity early. That really helped me make the transition early. I had the opportunity to play in every game. It just allowed me to make plays. I just thank God for keeping me injury free all season and allowing me to work through my aches and pains.”
Clayton on his 75-yard touchdown reception against the Cardinals: “It was just a five-step and stop. We knew that their cornerbacks weren’t that physical. I got some blocks downfield and was able to make a good play. When the guy ran up on me at the end, he was little so I knew I could just stiff arm him and I was able to keep my feet in and score.”
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden on what he told WR Michael Clayton after the game: “I told him that it was a great start and I’m very proud of him. I’m really looking forward to what he can do. Although he didn’t handle that pass late in the game, it’s something he can learn from. Hopefully we get all of the negatives out of the equation this year.”
Gruden on whether he thinks Clayton dropped the pass because he was trying to run before he caught it: “There’s no question. He proved earlier in the game what he’s capable of doing. He was wide open, so he might have made that real interesting. It’s just a tragedy. The game comes down to just a couple of plays every Sunday in the NFL, and we just don’t make enough.”
Gruden on what he told QB Chris Simms after the game: “I haven’t talked to him specifically yet. But there were some great signs. He got hit a lot. We didn’t run the ball very well. He’s got a lot to learn. He’s been inactive for the last 10 weeks. He played here against this defense that I’ve seen in recent weeks really shock and stime veteran quarterbacks. Hopefully this is a eye-opening experience for him, one that will cause him to have a great offseason.”
Gruden on what the Bucs must do to get a good running game going next year: “If we can’t run the ball I don’t want to be here next year. I don’t think anybody wants to be here if that’s the case. This is ridiculous. It’s a responsibility you as a coach have to take upon yourself. We obviously need to get a couple of things changed here. We can’t fumble the football and commit penalties and continue to be ranked near the bottom of the league in that category. The history of this franchise — they have not run the ball well enough. I’ve been here three years and it’s not anywhere near where I want it to be.”
Gruden on RB Michael Pittman’s fumbling problems: “The fumbleitis is a very, very dangerous disease. This guy here is a great guy and tremendous worker and receiver. But as a ballcarrier, you cannot fumble the ball. Until he gets that resolved he’s going to have a hard time playing here. But we’ve got to stick with him and we’ve got to emphasize it.”
Gruden on some of the good things Simms did on Sunday: “He got up. He got up off the ground. He faced adversity head on. I think that’s a great start. You look at Eli Manning and a lot of these great, young quarterbacks, and some of them get hit in the head a little bit early, but at least some of them are able to turn around and hand the ball off 30-33 times a game and look at some reasonable down-and-distance situations. We have not had that luxury, but there are some good things Chris did. He’s tough, he has a strong arm and he has some mobility that he needs to start using a little bit better.”
Gruden on how he’s holding up after two straight losing seasons: “We’ve lost 20 times in two years. To be honest with you, every game feels the same way when you lose. It’s disgusting and I take full responsibility for it. But at the same time I realize that we do need to make some strides here in terms of personnel and health. It’s hard to replace Mick Jagger as the lead singer when he’s not out there. But we’ll do a good job with the draft and with the rehab of our players. And, by God, if we can’t play better than this, they need to get a new coach.”
Gruden on what he plans to do now that the season is over: “We have a big team meeting tomorrow. We do have a number of players that are unsigned and we have tremendous salary cap obstacles. There are going to be some sensitive, emotional times ahead. There are some men under contract that know for sure where they’ll be next year. It’s important that they are the leaders of our football team and understand that.”
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