Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden spoke to the media the day after the Bucs' disappointing 16-13 loss to the Denver Broncos. In the third quarter of the game Tampa Bay quarterback Brian Griese was knocked out of the contest with an injured shoulder. Former starter Jeff Garcia replaced Griese, and led the Buccaneers to one touchdown in four drives.
"Brian Griese hurt his right arm. His elbow, and his shoulder, will be evaluated further today," said Gruden. "His status right now I would say is questionable.
"We're going to address the quarterback situation once we get all the facts. Obviously, health is going to be an issue. I thought Jeff did do some good things yesterday. His health has been an issue, and his return to health is something that we're excited about. We'll evaluate it today, and we'll let you know on Wednesday."
The Bucs offense struggled against the Broncos, who entered the game ranked 30th overall on defense. Griese and Garcia combined to 26-of-36 passes for 181 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
"Brian played pretty well. Jeff did pretty well," Gruden said. "Denver used some strange tactics yesterday. They've been a man-to-man team throughout the first month of the season. Yesterday, they rushed three [defensive linemen] 23 times. I thought under the circumstances, both quarterbacks did some good things. Obviously, field position – and we talked about the penalties yesterday and the sacks that we had – hurt us. Both guys did some decent things."
Tampa Bay averaged only seven yards per pass attempt against the Broncos. Gruden highlighted that Denver was dropping eight defenders into coverage routinely on Sunday. He was asked if that affected their passing production.
"Yeah, it does affect the yards per pass," Gruden said. "There are not a lot of places to throw the ball when there is eight [defenders] in coverage. But I thought we did do some good things throwing the ball. Unfortunately, we had a couple of big plays called back and we had some sacks and things of that nature with the penalties hurt us. It hurt us big time.
"If there are eight guys in coverage, it's a zone. It's two deep [with the safeties]. The middle linebacker, as you know in the Tampa 2, is deeper than the two safeties and there are five [defenders] underneath. There are not a lot of throwing lanes. We only have five eligibles. There were some times that we had some looks. Maybe we didn't see them down the field. They have a pretty good pass rush. [Denver defensive end Elvis Dumervil] was a problem yesterday. Anytime you throw the ball against a three-man rush, every route you have will be contested. It's a loaded coverage. It's something you don't see in a normal football game more than four or five times – let alone 23."
With Griese throwing six interceptions in his previous two games before Sunday's game in Denver, Garcia was elevated to the backup quarterback and the Buccaneers had to turn to him when Griese went down. It was the first appearance for Garcia since the season opener at New Orleans. In the three games between his game action Garcia was the third string emergency quarterback. Garcia battled injuries throughout training camp and the preseason.
"He's gotten better," Gruden said. "It's been difficult. Obviously, he was a key part of our team last year and he missed the entire training camp. Not some of it – all of it, really. He's had the calf injury, the ankle injury and the pinky injury and it's hurt him. With our observations of him on the practice field, we've seen more and more of Jeff Garcia lately. I thought he went in there late in the game yesterday and moved around and made some creative plays that we are accustomed to seeing. That's good. I think he does feel better. I think he is ready to play and we'll address that on Wednesday. I don't have a crystal ball here, but I think the signs are positive and I'm excited about that."
RUUD THINKS HE WILL PLAY In addition to Griese, middle linebacker Barrett Ruud left the game with an injured knee. Gruden labeled Ruud's status as questionable, but Ruud sounded more optimistic.
"I think I'll be fine, it is a day-by day thing," said Ruud. "Hopefully it feels better day-by-day, but I think I'll be fine.
Ruud indicated that he did have an MRI that revealed nothing wrong with this knee. He said he fell on the play and that it was a freak play. Ruud said he characterized the knee injury as a sprain. Ruud was asked if thinks he will play this week against Carolina.
"I think so yeah," said Ruud. "Like I said it is a day-by-day thing. I feel like I should be (ready)."
Last season, Ruud had some nagging injuries that caused Tampa Bay to rest him late in the season after the Bucs had clinched the division title. Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks has been playing with a pulled hamstring since the first week of the season. Brooks was held out of a number of practices in order to be ready for game action, although he is now back to practicing his customary one day per week. Ruud was asked if he would be eligible to be in a similar status even though he does not have the years of experience that Brooks does.
"Well, I did some of that last year," said Ruud. "I had a little bit of a knee thing last year. I had a few weeks where I didn't do a whole lot of practicing either. If that is the case you just got to get your mental reps and spend some more time in the film room. Sometimes that is what you got to do. Some of the older veterans are guys that practice only on Friday. You do what you have to do to get out there."
Replacing Ruud in the game was linebacker Adam Hayward. In training camp and the preseason Hayward showed the ability to play middle and outside linebacker. Gruden was pleased of the job that Hayward did in Ruud's place.
"Obviously, Matt [McCoy] has been in and out of activity in terms of the game day activations because of our injuries," Gruden said. "Adam Hayward is taking the bulk of the middle linebacker reps because of that. Given the fact that he's repped it, he's the guy that went in.
"He did some good things. That's a tough spot, but he did do some good things. We're encouraged by him. He's got some versatility to play inside and out and in the mixed downs. It was positive."
QUOTE OF THE DAY Gruden was asked why the Bucs did not take a shot at the end zone at the end of the first half when they had the ball at the Denver 17-yard line with one timeout. Tampa Bay audibled to a run due to Denver showing an all-out blitz according to Gruden. Running back Warrick Dunn ran for four yards on the play and the Bucs settled for a field goal.
"We felt good about what we got done on that drive, and the fact that were seeing a lot of loaded coverages, we wanted to get the field goal for sure," Gruden said. "We knew we had the ball to start the second half. That's the way we played that situation."
QUOTE OF THE DAY II Gruden was asked about the team missing veteran wide receiver Joey Galloway, who is out with an ankle injury, and what is the prognosis for Galloway.
"When you see a defense like that in third-and-2, third-and-8 and third-and-10 passing situations when you are getting a three-man rush. You could have Houston McTere come in here and you'd still have a hard time getting downfield. We miss Galloway. I'm not going to sugar coat it. He's had three straight 1,000-yard seasons and led the NFL in yards per catch last year. That's a key guy that we're missing.
"I don't know when he's going to be ready. To speculate is unfair to our fans. I know he ran yesterday with our assistant training staff. He's feeling better. He's closing in on a return. Whether it's Carolina, Seattle, Dallas or after the bye, I don't know. We miss him."