Fiedler’s Status For Regular Season Uncertain
Time is running out for Tampa Bay quarterback Jay Fiedler to make his Bucs debut before the start of the 2006 regular season.

Fiedler, 34, still is on the physically unable to perform list with a surgically repaired throwing arm that isn’t ready to throw live bullets yet.

Despite the fact that Tampa Bay is scheduled to play its fourth and final preseason game of the year in Houston on Thursday, Fiedler remains optimistic that his arm will be healthy in time for the start of the regular season on Sept. 10.

“It’s coming around,” Fiedler said of his arm. “Hopefully things will turn the corner pretty soon here for me. I’m still not where I need to be, but hopefully that will come soon.”

The Bucs signed Fiedler to a one-year contract in late June in hopes that he’d be ready to compete with Tim Rattay for the backup quarterback job behind Chris Simms when training camp started on July 28.

One month later, Fiedler is frustrated, yet optimistic that he’ll be able to compete with Rattay and rookie Bruce Gradkowski, and play with his teammates sooner rather than later.

“It’s definitely frustrating,” said Fiedler. “I’m out here watching and not able to participate. I’m a competitive guy and want to be out there, I want to be running around and I want to be playing. Unfortunately the arm isn’t allowing me to do that yet, but I’m doing what I can to make sure I can get back out on the field as soon as possible.”

Even if Fiedler is ready by the start of the regular season, he will be lacking reps with Tampa Bay’s offense. However, Fiedler has put in a plethora of mental reps and said he’s comfortable with head coach Jon Gruden’s playbook.

“If need be I could go out there right now,” said Fiedler. “I know the offense well enough to function. But to be successful at it, it would help to get more reps and get some time out there and a feel for everyone. As far as knowing the offense, I am ready to go out there right now.”

If he isn’t ready by the start of the regular season, there’s a strong chance Fiedler could start the season on PUP, which would allow the Bucs six weeks to make a decision on what to do with the veteran quarterback.

Tampa Bay currently has four quarterbacks – Simms, Rattay, Gradkowski and Jared Allen – on its roster. Two signal callers – Fiedler and Luke McCown – are on the PUP list.

Roster Cuts Coming Tuesday
The Buccaneers must cut their roster down from 87 to 75 players on Tuesday.

Although the Bucs have a good idea of which players will be in the first wave of cuts, head coach Jon Gruden said the decision to actually part ways with some of their players won’t be easy.

“They’re all tough because these guys have been here in April and May at One Buc Place where we were working hard and a lot of these guys won’t be able to make this team,” Gruden said. “Hopefully they feel like they had a fair chance, everybody got a chance to compete, to prove what they could do. It’s never easy this time of year. It’s a guy’s dreams that will be put to end, at least in Tampa, but hopefully these guys have enough exposure and are in good enough shape where someone else gives them a chance.

“We’re still evaluating. We’re going to do what we feel is right for the team. We’ve been fair. Like I said earlier, we’ve given everybody a chance, and there will be a wave of players who won’t make the trip to Houston. We’re going to wish them well, certainly, and thank them for their efforts.”

The Bucs have 89 players on their team roster, but two of them — quarterbacks Jay Fiedler and Luke McCown — are on the physically unable to perform list.

Gruden Impressed With Some Aspects Of Bucs’ Play
Despite blowing an 11-0 halftime lead and losing to Jacksonville 29-18 on Saturday night, the Bucs did some things well in their third preseason game of the year, particularly in the first half of the contest vs. the Jaguars.

“I was proud of the first team – offense, defense and special teams,” Gruden said. “I was pleased. I would have liked to have had more than an 11-0 lead. We missed a field goal. We mishandled a ball at the end of the half, a couple plays offensively that obviously we want back, but I’m really pleased with the way our defense played. I was pleased with the first two out of three drives we had offensively. Jacksonville’s a heck of a football team, and I did like what I saw from the starters.”

Bucs Work On Remedying Simms’ Batted Balls
Batted passes at the line of scrimmage were a problem for Bucs quarterback Chris Simms last year, and they continued to be a concern on Saturday night in Jacksonville, where the Jaguars defense deflected three of Simms’ 14 passes at the line of scrimmage.

Tampa Bay actually assembled a PVC pipe blocking dummy in training camp to help aid Simms get passes off cleanly during 7-on-7 drills. Some are growing concerned with Simms’ inability to get passes off cleanly on a consistent basis, but head coach Jon Gruden suggested Monday that the blame shouldn’t be placed squarely on Simms’ shoulders.

“Oh, we’re going to be working on it everyday, just as we always did,” Gruden said. “Chris can come out and say publicly that it’s his fault, but it’s not all his fault. We’ve got to be more aggressive in our quick pass protections, and we’ve got to get people’s hands down. When John Henderson plays, I think you’ll see this season, that he’s a hard guy to be aggressive with. He’s 6-8, maybe 6-10, I don’t know. We’ve got to sense passing lanes, certainly, and we’ve got to be more aggressive in our pass protections trying to create passing lanes. It’s unfortunate, because we had three or four pretty good looks there, but we didn’t get off. Chris understands that, and our offensive line and tight ends understand it.”

“We’ve had five-step drops batted down. We’ve had seven-step drops batted down. Dennis Rodman was a shot blocker – some of these guys are pretty good shot blockers. We’ve got to do a better job not telegraphing our throwing motion, we’ve got to do a better job being aggressive, tying people up and getting their hands down. That’s a negative right now. It’s not a situation that we’re going to be basket cases about. We’ll overcome it, and we’ll just have to prove that hopefully Thursday night.”

Quote Of The Day
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden on if he has a feel for his team yet:
“I’ve had a good feel for where our team is. That doesn’t guarantee us anything. Good feelings are just good feelings. I’ve had good feelings before and been very disappointed. We’ve got a good football team, so does Baltimore. That’s what we’re getting ready for – to hopefully be at our best when the regular season starts.”


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