Quarterback Brian Griese spoke with the media Tuesday for the first time since signing a five-year, $32 million contract over the weekend.
Needless to say, Griese, who turns 30 next month and has spent the past three three seasons with three different teams (Denver, Miami and Tampa Bay), was pleased that he and the Bucs could reach an agreement on a new deal that will likely make him Tampa Bay’s starting signal caller in 2005.
“Very glad, very excited,” Griese said Tuesday. “This is the place that I’ve wanted to be. I wanted to come back here and help get this team back on track. Getting this contract out of the way was more of a formality for me. I just wanted to get back and get back to work. I’m excited.”
The cap-strapped Bucs were forced to approach Griese about restructuring his contract, which called for him to receive a $6 million roster bonus on Mar. 2, which would’ve made his cap value $8.1 million.
Negotiations between Griese’s agent, Ralph Cindrich, and Bucs general manager Bruce Allen took place for a month, but significant progress wasn’t really made until the two men met in Indianapolis at the NFL Combine last week.
“I had doubts there after awhile,” Griese said of the contract getting done. “It took a little bit longer than I would have hoped it would, but in the end I think that everybody was happy. We’re still on speaking terms, so that?s good.”
The 2004 season was Griese’s first in Tampa Bay. He started the season as the team’s third-string quarterback behind Brad Johnson and Chris Simms. However, Griese replaced Simms, who unseated Johnson as the starter in Week 5, in the contest against the New Orleans Saints after Simms suffered a bruised left shoulder.
Griese went on to complete 69.3 percent of his passes and throw for 2,632 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 11 games.
With a year of head coach Jon Gruden’s system under his belt and the majority of reps coming his way, Griese said he hopes to build off of what some deemed an impressive debut with the Bucs.
“I’m looking forward to actually having a year under my belt, and coming back and watching the film from last year,” said Griese. “I’m in the process of doing that right now. We’re trying to build on the things that we did well. I know there are a lot of things that I need to improve on, especially not turning the ball over as much as I did. I’m going to look critically at a lot of those things and try to get on the same page with some of our guys who I know are coming back, Michael Clayton and those types of guys. If we can get on the same page and really begin to grow together, I think it will help us when we get on the field in September.”
While Tampa Bay’s salary cap challenges caused the Bucs to restructure Griese’s contract, they also forced the team to part ways with several players, including Brad Johnson, who was scheduled to have a $8.55 million cap value this year. Releasing Johnson gave the Bucs approximately $4.5 million in cap room, but Griese said Johnson would be able to help out another team.
“Yeah, I have been where Brad is, and nobody likes to be told that they’re fired,” said Griese. “But I think that Brad is the type of guy who will use that as motivation. I know that he still has some good days left and I know that he wants to go and prove himself. I don’t have any doubts — he’ll go somewhere and wherever he goes that team will be getting a heck of a player and heck of a leader.”
Tampa Bay is coming off a 5-11 season and is faced with some serious salary cap woes that could keep the Bucs from being a big player in free agency, Griese acknowledges the team’s cap woes but feels the Bucs, who have lost 15 of their past 20 games by one touchdown or less, aren’t that far away from turning things around.
“They’re in a tough situation, there’s no doubt,” said Griese. “I don’t envy Bruce’s situation. But it is what it is. Whether we were a part of it or not, I think from this point forward you have to be positive and go forward with the people that we do have. That’s my plan. I’m going to be positive each and every day. No matter who we bring in or don’t bring in, I know we have some talent here to work with. I’m going to hopefully be part of that and work with those guys so we can be better, because I don?t think we were that far away. I think there are a lot of things we can get better at, obviously, but I look at last year and I’m going to look at it critically, but I’m also going to look at it positively and say, ‘Look, we weren’t that far away.'”
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