With Luke McCown out indefinitely with a knee injury that will require surgery and could end his entire 2006 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are officially in the market for a veteran quarterback.

That was made apparent when the Bucs brought former Miami Dolphins and New York Jets QB Jay Fiedler to One Buccaneer Place for a visit on Thursday, which was the third and final day of the team’s mandatory mini-camp practice.

Fiedler, 34, has completed 58.7 percent of his passes for 11,844 yards and tossed 69 touchdowns and 66 interceptions during his 12-year career.

The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Fielder spent the first four years (1994-97) of his career in Philadelphia, where he and Bucs head coach Jon Gruden, who served as the offensive coordinator for the Eagles from 1995-97, worked together.

“We had Jay Fiedler in today,” said Bucs head coach Jon Gruden. “I coached him in Philadelphia when he was a younger player. [Bucs offensive line coach] Bill Muir also was involved in the early stages of his career. We’re just looking at his situation. We said we were going to look into the quarterback position, and we’re going to continue to do that, or at least as long as I’m here.”

After a four-year stint in Philadelphia, Fiedler left the Eagles and joined the Minnesota Vikings in 1998. One year later, he joined the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he started just one game.

Fiedler’s most significant action came after he joined the Miami Dolphins in 2000. He has produced a 37-23 regular season record as a starter in the NFL, and all but one of those starts came with the Dolphins.

With Tampa Bay’s four healthy signal callers – Chris Simms, Tim Rattay, Bruce Gradkowski and Jared Allen – having combined for just 28 career starts, the Bucs are intrigued by the possibility of brining in Fiedler, who has 60 career starts under his belt.

“He’s had some really good moments,” Gruden said of Fiedler. “He took the Dolphins to the playoffs, and he succeeded Dan Marino. He won a lot of games – his won-loss record in Miami was pretty solid. He’s a smart, quick study, and he’s a good guy. Right now he’s looking for a team to help out.”

Fielder spent last season with the New York Jets, but that stint was short-lived after he suffered a serious shoulder injury. Although he had surgery to repair the injured shoulder, Fiedler, who apparently has a few other teams interested in signing him, indicated that he probably would not be able to throw at full strength until training camp.

“We’re talking to two or three teams, and Tampa Bay is included,” Fielder said Thursday. “A lot of teams are just waiting to see where my rehab is heading.”

“I had arthroscopic surgery on my right shoulder – my throwing shoulder. I had a torn labrum. I started throwing about three or four weeks ago and I’ve been progressing forward. The doctor is hopeful that I’ll be ready to go and I’ll able to make all the throws by the start of training camp.”

If the opportunity presents itself, Fielder said he would love to be reunited with Gruden in Tampa Bay.

“I know this is a great situation here that I’ve been looking at for a little while. I’ve been with Jon years ago back in Philadelphia when he was a coordinator there, so I’ve known him for a number of years. I would love to get back together with him if I can and work with him. He does a great job of coaching the quarterback position and making it easy on the quarterback to be successful. Right now, I’m just looking at this situation as well as a few others and trying to determine where the best spot for me is going to be.”

And if they are unable to sign Fiedler or simply decide against it, the Bucs appear to be ready to move forward with their current stable of quarterbacks.

“If there’s a way [to sign Fielder], we’ll find a way, and hopefully something works itself out,” said Gruden. “If it doesn’t, we like what Bruce Gradkowski did today, and Tim Rattay is a solid player. And if you watched our starting quarterback [Chris Simms], he looked pretty damn good.”

Bucs Wrap Up Mini-Camp
Tampa Bay concluded its three-day mandatory mini-camp after a two-hour morning workout at One Buc Place on Thursday.

Bucs rookie wide receiver Maurice Stovall, tackle Chris Colmer and cornerback Brian Kelly were held out of the practice.

Rookie tight end T.J. Williams was carted off the practice field after sustaining an ankle/knee injury during the 11-on-11 session. There was no official word on the extent of his injury.

The Bucs will report to Celebration Hotel for training camp on July 27. Their first practice will be held the morning of July 28 at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.


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