The Buccaneers took the practice field at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex for an afternoon workout on Monday.
Tampa Bay was encouraged to see starting quarterback Jeff Garcia on the field. Garcia, 38, has missed over one week of practice due to a calf injury he sustained on July 31, but returned to action in a limited capacity on Monday.
"He practiced a little bit and took a lot of snaps in our walk-thru," Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said of Garcia. "We're working him back in today. The better he feels the more [work] he'll get. We're excited to have him back out there."
Despite being without Garcia for its preseason opener in Miami on Saturday, the Bucs defeated the Dolphins, 17-6. Tampa Bay is preparing to play its next preseason game vs. the New England Patriots, a contest that will be played at Raymond James Stadium in front of a nationally televised audience on Sunday.
Gruden suggested it was too early to tell whether Garcia would be ready for that game, but indicated that the team needs to get him reps both on the practice field and in games before the regular season begins.
"Yeah, it's concerning," said Gruden. "He missed the first two days camp for an excused absence and he's got the calf injury. You've got to have your starting quarterback out here practicing.
"I can't tell [if Garcia will be able to play on Sunday]. Obviously, he's very questionable. We'd like to get him to the point where he can operate at full speed again. Until we can do that we will not play him. It's good to have him in the huddle, that's for sure."
Garcia took reps during the individual period of practice, but left the field with trainer Todd Toriscelli less than one hour into the workout. He later joined his teammates in the air-conditioned tent near the practice field and took quite a few reps there.
Needless to say, Garcia is anxious to return to 100 percent health so he can max out on the practice field.
"It's getting better," said Garcia. "It's unfortunately a slower process than what I would hope it would be or what I think was initially anticipated. But I'm making strides in the right direction, to be able to come out here and throw the ball a little bit. I think everyday it's going to get a little bit better and I'll be able to do more soon.
"It's unfortunate that I've missed that much of the physical reps out on the football field. But there mental reps taking place also, and I try to stay on top of those as much as possible by watching film with my teammates and going through all of those type of things. But you can't replicate what you do on the field. It's important for me to get back out on the field as soon as possible. I need to be out here practicing and going through all of the reps."
Even if he is unable to play vs. the Patriots, Garcia believes he'll be ready for Tampa Bay's regular season opener at New Orleans on Sept. 7 as long as he can get a significant amount of reps in the Bucs' final two preseason games.
"I've always felt that at this point in my career the preseason is a little overdone," said Garcia. "Hopefully I can play in at least two preseason games, or the majority of one of those games. If I can do that then I will have the necessary reps that I need to feel good about myself."
GARCIA PUTTING FAVRE SAGA BEHIND HIM
There are plenty of things on Garcia's mind as he attempts to return to full health from a calf injury, but apparently Brett Favre is no longer one of them.
The Bucs were interested in acquiring the former Green Bay Packers quarterback before Favre was eventually traded to the New York Jets on Aug. 7.
Tampa Bay general manager Bruce Allen told the media that the Bucs expressed interest in Favre along with a total of 18 other teams, but never entered negotiations with the Packers in an effort to acquire him. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden talked to Favre on the telephone the night before he was traded to the Jets.
Last Thursday, Gruden attempted to get his entire team, including Garcia, focused back on football, saying, "I hope at the end of the day, if there are some feelings hurt, we can get over that and move on. We have work to do."
If he did have any hurt feelings over the Favre saga, Garcia didn't show them when talking to the media on Monday.
"At this point it's water under the bridge," said Garcia. "There's no reason to dwell on it. I'm thankful to have things work out to where I was able to stay and be the starting quarterback here and work with my teammates. When it's all said and done, that's all that matters to me is what my teammates feel and believe. We were able to win a lot of games last year and we could have won some more games, but we were able to win our division. I definitely want to do that again and build on that this year. With me at quarterback, growing and getting more comfortable, I think I can help this team do a lot of good things."
Garcia completed 63.9 percent of his passes for 2,440 yards and tossed 13 touchdowns and four interceptions en route to making the Pro Bowl as an alternate and helping the Tampa Bay win the NFC South division championship in his Buccaneer debut in 2007.
A four-time Pro Bowler, Garcia played for five different teams during a five-year period (2003-07). Whether or not he would have been traded had the Bucs acquired Favre is unknown.
But Garcia, who is unhappy with his current contract, which has one year remaining on it, still managed to find his sense of humor and answer his critics when asked how Tampa Bay's interest in Favre affected him personally.
"I'm just a journeyman, according to some people," said Garcia. "Why should I have any hard feelings? I'm thankful to have this job. I might pay [general manager] Bruce [Allen] and Jon [Gruden] for bringing me back out here. What am I going to say? It's the unfortunate part of the business. That's what this sport is, it has two sides. It's a game for all of those who love to be out on the field playing, but there's a business side, too. Part of teams trying to reach that championship level is teams trying to strengthen their teams. Whether [the Bucs] felt that [attempting to acquire Favre] was strengthening or not, as much as I believe I can be a strongpoint for our team, that's what they had to look into. So be it. It's all said and done. We're moving forward.
"[Jon Gruden and I] have to [work together], there's no way around it. Fortunately, I'm a guy that likes to put those types of things behind me and move forward. I want to focus on all of the positives of what this team is all about, focus on what I have to do as far as getting healthy again and getting back out on the football field. That's first and foremost for me. I'm not going to lose sleep or lose energy dwelling on something that I really didn't have control over."
Garcia (calf) was limited in practice on Monday. Cornerback Sammy Davis (hip), tight end Ben Troupe (undisclosed) and safety Donte Nicholson (soreness) were held out of Monday afternoon's practice. Gruden suggested all three players could return to action on Tuesday morning.
Defensive tackle Jovan Haye (groin) was held out of Monday's practice.
Wide receiver Joey Galloway (groin) remains sidelined as well. He has missed all of Tampa Bay's training camp practices thus far, and Gruden did not give a timeframe for his return to the practice field.
"I don't know. I get tired of addressing it," Gruden said when asked about Galloway. "All flights are cancelled until further notice. I guess that's the update I have."
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