In his Monday press conference, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden listed starting quarterback Jeff Garcia as questionable for Sunday’s home opener against Atlanta with a sprained ankle. Questionable is the right way to look at this situation as Garcia was not available to speak to the media as he typically is on Wednesdays, nor was he at either the walk through during the morning or the practice in the afternoon.
Instead, it was Brian Griese taking the starting reps, a clear indication that he will likely start against the Falcons on Sunday.
“Through walk-throughs, Griese was working with us. Jeff is still doing his thing and getting ready,” Bucs center Jeff Faine said, indicating that Garcia was in with the training staff on Wednesday.
“He was in there rehabbing,” Faine said. “I don’t know how it’s going. You’ve got to be able to adapt. Griese has been rolling with the [first team] quite a bit throughout camp and he’s been very familiar with [the offense]. I don’t think that’s an issue at all. I think whoever straps it up on game day, we’ll be fine.”
Garcia was showing no signs of an injured ankle during Sunday’s 24-20 loss at New Orleans, and his teammates, like Faine, did not know when the quarterback was injured during the game.
“It’s tough because adrenaline sometimes to takes over,” Faine said. “Sometimes you get nicks and bruises and you don’t really feel it on game day. You feel it the day after. It’s just part of it when the adrenaline takes over.”
There is some real mystery about Garcia’s injury and the fact that he was sequestered from the media on Wednesday, and because his play was rather mediocre at New Orleans – 24-of-41 (58.5 percent) for 221 yards with one touchdown and one costly interception that killed Tampa Bay’s comeback attempt and gave New Orleans the victory – this may be a political decision by the team to give Griese a shot at quarterbacking the team while Garcia attempts to shake off his rust from the preseason.
Griese had a very efficient preseason completing 26-of-35 passes (74.3 percent) for 174 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions, while Garcia struggled in his lone preseason appearance against Jacksonville. Garcia was 11-of-18 (61.1 percent) for 79 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, likely a result of missing the majority of training camp practice with a calf strain.
Griese was 5-1 as a starter in Tampa Bay in 2005 and was 5-6 in games he played in during the 2004 season, but no one is proclaiming him to be a starter for any game past Sunday at this point in time.
“I feel like Jeff is still the starting quarterback and thoughts haven’t even gone in that direction for me, personally, and I think I can speak for the locker room for the most part,” Faine. “We’re practicing with who we have for today and we’ll take it a day at a time.
“I thought he looked great in practice last week. I think he was looking pretty well. It’s hard to tell, though. It’s hard to speak of another person’s comfort level. They could go out there and really make it happen and not be comfortable at all. They could go out there and make some mistakes and feel real comfortable.”
Regardless of whether Griese starts against the Falcons or if Garcia gets healthy in time play, Faine does not foresee any major changes to Gruden’s game planning, especially with all of the starting reps Griese took in practice during training camp while Garcia was injured.
“Scheme-wise, these guys have been working the same offense,” Faine said. “I don’t see Gruden doing anything different with a different quarterback. I don’t think it’s a major difference from a scheme standpoint and from a playcall standpoint, and I think we’re going to see some of the similar plays called and some of the similar schemes used. I think Griese has been training with us and running with the ones a lot during camp and he’s been in this offense before. It’s something that he’s familiar with and I don’t think it’s an issue if Jeff starts this week or if Brian starts this week. Either way, I think we’re going to see the same level of play.”
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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com