Tampa Bay announced that it will make a roster move on Wednesday, but it probably isn't the one Bucs fans were expecting given the rash of injuries the team has suffered at the running back position over the past two weeks.
General manager Bruce Allen announced in a conference call with the media on Tuesday evening that the Buccaneers will place quarterback Chris Simms on injured reserve on Wednesday.
Simms, 27, has struggled to regain his throwing form, mechanics and strength since undergoing an emergency splenectomy after a Week 3 loss to the Carolina Panthers in September of 2006.
"We're going to put Chris Simms on injured reserve tomorrow," said Allen. "This is what we feel is the best move for Chris to regain his full strength. We've been very hopeful, as has Chris, that his recovery from the splenectomy, that he would've recovered by now. It's just taking longer than both Chris and we had hoped for. We'll make another roster move to add a player on Wednesday."
That roster move likely will involve the Bucs signing or trading for a running back. Tampa Bay has suffered a rash of injuries at the running back position, where Mike Alstott (neck) and Cadillac Williams (knee) have been lost for the year and Michael Pittman is sidelined 6-8 weeks with what has been diagnosed as a "high ankle sprain."
Tampa Bay did not place Pittman on injured reserve because it believes there's a chance he will recover in time to help the 3-2 Bucs make a playoff push later in the season.
"We're hopeful that Michael can come back," Allen said. "I don't believe [placing Chris Simms on injured reserve] is related to Chris. Mike has been known to be a quick healer and we have the facilities here and the equipment that we think can help him get healthy. We don't think it is a season-ending injury by any means."
In the meantime, the Bucs have been working out running backs at One Buccaneer Place and working the phones in an effort to possibly trade for a running back. Tampa Bay has two healthy running backs – Earnest Graham and Kenneth Darby – on its active roster, and neither player has ever started a game in the NFL. The Bucs also have one running back – Dontrell Moore – on their practice squad, but Allen ruled out the possibility of bringing him up from the taxi squad at this point.
In fact, the Bucs added a running back to their practice squad on Tuesday. PewterReport.com is reporting that the Bucs have signed RB Lionel Gates to their practice squad. Gates spent training camp and preseason with the Bucs.
The Bucs worked out several running backs last week, including Eric Shelton, David Wimbush, Zach Crockett and Patrick Pass.
The team has also been rumored to be interested in trading for Minnesota RB Mewelde Moore, Detroit RB Tatum Bell or San Diego RB Michael Turner, although Allen suggested that a trade was unlikely.
"I know there has been a lot of speculation over the last week or so," said Allen. "Some of the names are people we have had interest in, some are not – and there are other names that haven't been speculated about that we have some interest in. Trading is less used in the NFL before the deadline than any other sport. I think there has been only been about six or seven trades over the last four seasons during the season. Right now, we don't anticipate making any trades. We have made three of them, and we'll listen.
“I don’t want to say what is significant or not. We’re looking at some options of somebody that can help us this week. We’ll let you classify the significance of it.”
A 2003 third-round draft pick out of Texas, Simms began throwing again in December around the same time he signed a two-year contract extension with the Bucs. That deal included a $3 million signing bonus.
But Simms saw his reps reduced in organized team activities and training camp. In fact, Simms took just six snaps in preseason. His limited play allowed Bruce Gradkowski and Luke McCown to earn the backup quarterback jobs behind Jeff Garcia, who signed with the team as a free agent in March and is currently the starter.
Despite his limitations on the football field, the Bucs insisted all along that Simms was healthy. Their decision to keep a total of four quarterbacks, including Simms, on their 53-man roster for the first five games of the season might have lent some validity to that notion.
Allen attempted to clear up the confusion in regards to whether or not Simms was and/or is healthy.
“I don’t think it’s a contradiction with [head coach Jon Gruden] or Chris," Allen said. "There’s a difference between your health and being able to play football, and playing at the level that Chris was playing before his surgery. Chris is doing everything he can to regain his full strength and will be working here every day. You’ll get to see him, no doubt, tomorrow. I don’t think there is any contradiction. We all know that Chris hasn’t got what I refer to as his ‘A game’ back. Until he does, he’s got to keep working towards that goal.”
Some reports speculated that the Bucs were attempting to trade Simms once the regular season started. However, once the regular season started $2 million of Simms' base salary became guaranteed, which made it unlikely that he was going to be traded.
Allen said on Tuesday that the Bucs never attempted to shop Simms around to other teams around league.
"Chris and I met the last couple days and discussed his situation," said Allen. "No, we have not tried to trade Chris. It was never our intention to. Our goal when we signed him last year in December was to have Chris Simms come back as Chris Simms – the player we had known before the injury. We had discussed it and where he is physically. He wants to get his "A" game back. He is working very hard at it and will continue to. We are very confident that he will recover completely."
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Simms had thrown just one touchdown and nine interceptions and was 0-4 in his last four starts dating back to Tampa Bay's playoff game vs. Washington.
Simms has started 15 of the 19 regular season games he's played in with the Buccaneers. He has completed 59.1 percent of his passes and thrown for 3,087 yards and tossed 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
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