Tampa Bay conducted its first two training camp practices of the year without starting quarterback Jeff Garcia on Saturday.
Garcia helped lead the Bucs to an NFC South division title and earned himself a trip to the Pro Bowl in the process in 2007.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden and the team have excused Garcia for the first two days of camp (July 26 and 27) so he can attend his father's 35th-anniversary reunion for his junior college championship in California.
With Garcia missing in action, Tampa Bay's other quarterbacks, particularly Brian Griese and Luke McCown, received a significant amount of reps on Saturday.
Gruden thought the quarterbacks made the most of their opportunities with Garcia excused from practice.
"They played well," Gruden said. "I have a lot of checks on my script. Brian Griese threw the ball impressively and I thought Luke McCown made some nice throws down the field. It's a great opportunity for those guys to get the bulk of the reps. Obviously, when Jeff gets here those reps will decline."
Griese spent two seasons with the Bucs (2004-05) before spending the last two seasons in Chicago. He re-joined the Bucs this offseason after being traded back to Tampa Bay. He said the extra reps will help him in terms of getting reacquainted with Gruden's offense.
"It's a great opportunity for us to get some reps and work in," said Griese. "I haven't been in this system in two years, so it's good for me to get in, get the live reps, make the audibles and direct the team. I enjoy that."
McCown concurred with Griese regarding the fact that the extra reps can be beneficial to the quarterbacks that are competing for the backup spot behind Garcia.
"It's fantastic to get those extra reps," McCown said. "There is absolutely no better way to learn how to play the position and play the game than reps. Any time you can get reps, it's a plus whether it's in a tent or live reps out on the field. You take advantage of every opportunity that has been given to you. I want to thank Jeff for allowing me to get some extra work. My main focus is winning. I'm preparing myself to help my team win football games. That's my main goal."
Griese and McCown weren't the only players to receive reps at the quarterback position. Chris Simms practiced with the Bucs for the first time this year after skipping offseason workouts in hopes of being released or traded. Rookie QB Josh Johnson also saw some action.
"[Simms] has been inactive a long time and we have a long way to go to get him some snaps," Gruden said. "We'll do the best we can.
"We're trying to win games here, okay? We're trying to get ourselves ready to play games. Jeff Garcia is our starting quarterback. Brian Griese looked very good today. Luke McCown is doing some excellent things. Chris and Josh are going to have an opportunity to take some snaps and get themselves re-acclimated to football and this offense."
Buzz continued to hover over Bucs training camp in regards to the team's reported interest in retired Packers QB Brett Favre, who reportedly plans to submit the paperwork necessary to get reinstated to the NFL and report to Packers training camp on Sunday.
The Bucs and New York Jets have reportedly received permission from the Packers to speak to Favre, 38, and are interested in possibly trading for the five-time NFL MVP.
Gruden, who attempted to dismiss Tampa Bay's reported interest in Favre on Friday, grew tired of answering the Favre-related questions after practice on Saturday morning.
"You can talk to Brett yourself. If we have permission I'm sure you do, too," said Gruden. ‘I don't have any reports on Brett. I'm just going to concentrate on the practices. There will be some more opportunities to write stories on this situation. It's a great story to cover. I wish I had time to cover all of the things that are going on. I like what we did today as a football team. His situation will resolve itself."
The quarterbacks that did participate in Bucs training camp practice were also asked about the reports regarding Favre and Tampa Bay's interest in him.
Neither Griese, McCown nor Simms seemed to have much knowledge of the situation, but suggested they could understand why the Favre-Bucs reports were generating so much interest.
"I'm sure that every quarterback and every team in the league is answering the same questions," Griese said of Favre. "I love Brett Favre and I think he's one hell of a player. We're coming here to work and work with the guys that are here."
Added Simms: "It is Brett Favre, he is a living legend. At the same time I'm not going to disrespect Jeff Garcia. He had an unbelievable year, is a great quarterback, and is a leader on this team. We have a lot of quarterbacks and you know how it is here we are always looking for quarterbacks and that is the way it is. If Brett comes in we'll be packed in there like I don't know what. It is a small room already and there are five of us quarterbacks with Coach Olson and Coach Gruden. I might be sitting on the screen."
Griese went on to say that this was his 11th training camp in the NFL and that he was focused on one thing – making it through it. Like Griese, McCown said he was focused on what he can control, which is his play.
"I don't know. I guess that's for you guys to write about … and if it ever happens. I just don't know," McCown said regarding the Favre rumors. "I want to come out here, have fun and play. That's all I can control. I'm trying to win for the guys that are here and not worry about whether somebody else may come here. That's not going to affect me at all
Griese and Simms had mixed feelings regarding whether or not Favre, who is familiar with the West Coast offense, could come into Tampa Bay's training camp and learn Gruden's system in enough time to be ready for the regular season.
"I think he could," Simms said. "That's what I meant by the quote that was written about me (in the St. Petersburg Times) the other day with Brett Favre, I didn't know that was going to be in the media. Nonetheless, that is what I meant by there would be some compromising I'm sure. There is a lot to this offense. Brett Favre would know the basic terminology, but Coach Gruden puts his own twist on it. I'm sure if it did happen they would have to work together and find some middle ground."
Griese suggested it would be a tremendous challenge for Favre to attempt to execute Gruden's playbook in a matter of weeks.
"Very difficult," Griese said of Gruden's version of the West Coast offense. "I came in in March the first time I had come here. I really didn't have a good grasp on the system until the following year. It's a lot of terminology and there are a lot of things that are different. People say, ‘Well, the West Coast system is the same,' but here it's different from anywhere else I've been in the system. It's a lot of verbiage."
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