With all the news surrounding Chris Simms’ health and who’s going to capture the No. 2 quarterback spot, starting quarterback Jeff Garcia has quietly had a productive training camp. While he’s still trying to learn head coach Jon Gruden’s playbook, Garcia doesn’t have to worry about what his teammates think of him.
Just about any offensive player that has been asked about Garica has used the words playmaker, confident and competitor. Garcia stated in his first training camp interview that he and Gruden are the same with their fiery personalities. That’s a big reason why Garcia has been handed the keys to Gruden’s offense with the expectation of leading the Bucs back to the playoffs.
That and the fact that Garcia’s success in the NFL, with the exception of his stints with the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns, has come in the West Coast system. Even though Garcia is still learning the offense, he knows that he’s becoming more comfortable with running the offense and every snap in training camp gets him closer to where he wants to be.
“I think things are going well, I expect myself to better and I am not exactly where I want to be yet, but it’s coming,” Garcia said. “It’s just one of those things where it’s continuous work. Training camp is a difficult time too, it’s a lot of practice, a lot of wear and tear on your arm. Mentally and physically wear you out a little bit, but I’m battling through it and I feel like there are a lot of good things that are taking place on the football field. My comfort zone with the system is getting much better and that’s really what I expect out of this camp. The physical part will come, being on the same page with the receivers, being as accurate as I want to be, those things are going to come, but as far as the mental side of things I feel I’m improving every day and that’s the important thing right now.”
Garcia is also ready to face someone other than the Bucs defense that he has had to face in practice for the last week. With Friday’s first preseason game against New England quickly approaching, Garcia is ready to get some game experience with running Gruden’s offense under his belt.
“Obviously I want to get in there and experience some success. New England is a pretty good football team no matter if it’s the preseason or not,” Garcia said. “They are well-coached, but I think it’s important for me to get in and put a couple of series together and try and sustain a drive, try to get some positive things going. Spit out the plays, mentally know what’s going on and understand what’s going on and just try to get on the same page with my teammates. That’s what’s important to me and if that takes a quarter that so be it. I’m willing to go as long as it takes or as long as coach wants me to go.”
Gruden wants to get Garcia some game-time reps as well on Friday, but hasn’t decided on a set number of plays that his starting quarterback will run against New England. Quarterbacks Luke McCown and Bruce Gradkowski should expect to see a significant amount of playing time against the Patriots.
“No, I haven’t really put a lot of thought into that [Garcia’s playing time],” Gruden said. “He will start the game, obviously, and play a little bit. We’ll see the health of the football team and what we want to try to look at. We’ve got some inexperience at the position. We’re going to look at [Luke] McCown a lot in the preseason; it’s been awhile since he’s played. And obviously Jeff needs to take some snaps. We’ll make those decisions in the next few days.”
Gruden was also strong about his feelings on if Chris Simms will see some action against New England.
“He needs to play. He needs to play, obviously,” Gruden said. “Yes, I do expect him to play. But there are a lot of things that go into that. If we get the ball and can do something with it and look at some guys, we’d like to do that. He needs to get out there and play. Physically, he looked good today, what I saw. Hopefully he can work himself back into a ready position this week.”
RUUD HELD OUT OF PRACTICE Starting middle linebacker Barrett Ruud was held out of both the morning and afternoon practice with a bruised knee. Ruud is listed as day-to-day, but the Bucs are hoping that he returns quickly from the injury. In his absence, Ryan Nece stepped in on Sunday morning and took over duties at the middle linebacker position.
Nece has started 25 of 31 games for the Bucs defense the last two seasons and has compiled 197 tackles during that time period. Nece, third-year linebacker Antoine Cash and rookie Quincy Black, who is also playing the Sam (strongside) linebacker spot, will split the practice time until Ruud is ready to get back on the field.
“Well, Ryan Nece has been playing there,” Gruden said. “Antoine Cash has been playing there and Quincy Black has some experience playing in there so we’ll have to do the best we can, adjust as long as Barrett’s out. But we expect him back shortly.”
Ruud enters his third season at linebacker for the Bucs and has taken over the starting linebacker position after the release of Shelton Quarles. Ruud has had a productive camp so far and has taken a leadership role on the defense.
SIMMS SLOWLY IMPROVING Chris Simms worked after the morning practice for about 15 to 20 minutes throwing different routes to three different receivers. With rookie running back Kenneth Darby and wide receivers Jovon Bouknight and Kyle Smith, Simms threw short dump passes along with comeback and out routes to the sideline.
Simms was accurate with his pass attempts as Gruden watched intently in the middle of the field. Gruden stood there for 10 minutes watching his former starting quarterback trying to work out the kinks. Gruden was happy with the improvement he sees, but wants to see more from Simms.
“We wanted to get him 80 to 100 throws and work on going to alternate receivers, et cetera, driving the ball in the void and doing some different things,” Gruden said. “The arm looks good to me and we’ll talk to the doctors and the trainers and so forth here at lunch to see what we can do this afternoon.”
Simms didn’t participate in any of the 9-on-7 or 11-on-11 drills in the afternoon.
SOFTER SIDE OF GRUDEN Gruden and Tampa Bay Buccaneers Executive Vice President Bryan Glazer presented six grants totaling more than $26,000 to six representatives of different organizations. Gruden took pictures with the representatives that were there to receive the grants, but had a special gift for one lucky child.
Justin Johnson, who was there on behalf of the Canine Companions for Independence of Orlando, got to meet Gruden and shake his hand. However, during their conversation, Gruden took off his visor that he was wearing for practice and gave it to the youngster showing another side to the otherwise fiery coach.
“That’s another thing that kind of puts things into perspective for you,” Gruden said.
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