Quarterback Jeff Garcia wanted to come to Tampa Bay for one simple reason and that was to run head coach Jon Gruden’s West Coast style offense. Garcia’s success in the NFL has come when he was in a West Coast system. Gruden tried to sign Garcia two separate times – Garcia signed with Cleveland in 2004 and Detroit in 2005 – but was unsuccessful.
The third time was a charm for Gruden and Garcia and the Bucs are putting their playoff hopes on the shoulders of the nine-year veteran. Garcia proved last season in Philadelphia that he still has what it takes to be successful in the NFL, going 5-1 with the Eagles after quarterback Donovan McNabb went down with a season-ending knee injury. The Eagles made the playoffs and missed reaching the NFC Championship game, losing 27-24 to the New Orleans Saints.
If Garcia can equal the same success with the Bucs in 2007, he will earn another season at the helm of the offense and save Gruden’s job at the same time. Garcia accepts the pressure that has been placed on him this season and is used to the high standards at the quarterback position.
“It’s the quarterback’s responsibility and I don’t look at it as anything different than anywhere else,” Garcia said. “Every team expects their quarterback to lead the team, to do great things for their team and to find a way to help the team win football games and that’s really the role of this position. It’s a role I’ve been in before; it’s a role I expect out of myself. I can’t really listen or pay any attention to what people are thinking outside of this facility. It’s really about my teammates and coaching staff and doing the best possible job I can.”
Garcia will be challenged in the season opener as the Bucs must travel to the West Coast to face the Seattle Seahawks. Garcia understands that Seattle is a tough place to play, but sees this as one of many challenges that this Bucs team must overcome and come out ready to play.
“They are good at home. Every team needs to find a way to win at home and this is not any different,” Garcia said. “They are a well-coached football team, they have good players, went to the Super Bowl two years ago. So they are probably a team that is considered one of the top in the NFC and it’s just one of those things where yes it is a long trip, but we have to be professionals about it. We have to learn how to manage these types of situations. Go out there and just really take care of business. It’s a business trip and that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about seeing people; it’s not about seeing anything else. It’s about getting ready to play a game and going out and giving the best effort that is within ourselves.”
Despite not playing into the third quarter in any of the four preseason games for the Bucs, Garcia is ready to play a game that matters and create the continuity that comes with playing an entire game. Garcia hasn’t played a snap in the final six quarters of the preseason so rust could be an issue early against the Seahawks.
Garcia, however, doesn’t foresee a problem popping up in Seattle.
“I’m ready to go. I’m ready to go for a full game,” Garcia said. “I don’t feel like it’s going to be any sort of problem as far as conditioning is concerned or just the beating that you take during a full game. I think it’s something that I’m fully prepared for, I’ve been doing it for a lot of years and I’m excited about it. I’m excited about being able to get into some sort of a rhythm. Be able to not just be in for one quarter, but yet play through all four and that’s what it’s really all about and I’m excited about that.”
CLAYTON FEELS GOOD HEADING TO SEATTLE
After his stellar rookie performance, wide receiver Michael Clayton has struggled through two injury-plagued seasons with the Bucs. He has been unable to create the magic that he had during his rookie season where he had 80 receptions for 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns.
Clayton, however, has been battling for a starting position during training camp with fellow receivers Ike Hilliard, David Boston and Maurice Stovall. Head coach Jon Gruden was looking for one receiver to step up and claim the starting flanker or “Z” position opposite of wide receiver Joey Galloway, but as of Wednesday, no one has been named as the starter.
Clayton is just preparing himself as if he was the starter and is waiting for his number to be called. He also is excited about getting the regular season underway and helping the Bucs return to the playoffs.
“I’m very excited, I finally get a chance to get this season on a roll,” Clayton said. “It’s been a long season, a long camp and I finally get to throw some bodies with our starting guys out there against an opponent and make a run for the playoffs.”
Clayton is also excited about the prospect of going into the regular season healthy for the first time in three seasons. He used every bit of time during the offseason to get his body healthy and ready for the grind of a 16-game regular season. Clayton has also been seen after practice running routes and catching extra passes.
Clayton was quick to point out that he’s in the best shape of his career heading into the season opener against the Seattle Seahawks.
“I feel I am [in the best shape]. I had a great offseason and I had a long time to prepare and get healthy,” Clayton said. “I utilized all my free time to getting healthy and basically went in to training camp like I never have done before, ready to go. Came out healthy, got through the preseason healthy so I’m just looking forward to being productive this season.”
Gruden is happy with Clayton’s performance during the preseason and is looking for Clayton to return to his old form.
“If you are a pro wide receiver, you should be in great shape, you know, in a while, I don’t know what the hell he was doing that last two years,” Gruden said of Clayton. “I’m glad he’s in great shape because that’s what you have to be in to play at a great level here in the NFL. He has had a good camp, he does have more life in his legs and we are expecting him to explode back on to the scene.”
IS THE OFFENSIVE LINE READY?
The Bucs have finally named the starters for the offensive line after competition during the preseason. Guard Davin Joseph and tackle Jeremy Trueblood will man the right side, rookie guard Arron Sears and tackle Luke Petitgout will be on the left side and John Wade will lead the group at center.
The question, however, is have the starters had enough time to gel and be a successful unit as the Bucs travel to Seattle. Sears missed the final two games in the preseason with a sprained ankle, Petitgout missed almost two weeks of training camp with a bad back and Trueblood missed the final preseason game with an inflamed Achilles tendon.
“It’s about time for me to get back,” Sears said. “I’ve been out for a couple of weeks, but when Sunday rolls around I’ll be ready to go. Coach Gruden, he’s the head coach. He’s going to put the best five out on the field. Whoever guard it’s going to be, it’s going to be his call. I’m just glad to be here.”
This unit has technically hasn’t played a full game together in the preseason. So how ready is this offensive line to face an aggressive defense in Seattle?
“I don’t know really, I don’t know,” Gruden said. “I’m confident in them. [Arron] Sears has missed a couple of weeks I wish he hadn’t. [Jeremy] Trueblood got hurt and missed some time, I wish he hadn’t. I do think we are ready though. We are better than we have been, the right guard is ready. He got every vote almost on the team to be a captain and he’s earned it. He’s ready to go, I do know [Davin] Joseph is ready to go. I believe Sears and I know [Luke] Petitgout is ready to go. I think John Wade is ready to go. I’m confident we will be better and we are going to see a quality opponent where it’s going to be hard to hear. So it will be interesting.”
PETITGOUT SWITCHES NUMBERS
Tampa Bay left tackle Luke Petitgout will start for the Buccaneers Sunday, but you might not recognize him. That's because Petitgout has switched jersey numbers, changing from No. 79 to 77, which was previously sported by guard Jeb Terry, who was placed on injured reserve before being released after reaching an injury settlement with the team.
Bucs defensive end Patrick Chukwurah has been ruled out of Sunday’s game with a knee injury.
“Patrick Chukwurah has got a knee injury and he’s out of the game,” Gruden said. “No one else missed practice because of injury. I don’t know who is starting at this point, but we’ll have 11 out there. We’ll use a lot of guys. Who we start might depend on who they start.”
Rookie DE Gaines Adams will start in his place. Tight end Jerramy Stevens missed Wednesday’s practice in order to attend a court date. As part of his regular regiment, Bucs wide receiver Joey Galloway was limited in practice on Wednesday.
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