Tampa Bay quarterbacks Brian Griese and Chris Simms each answered questions from the media on Thursday at One Buccaneer Place, where the two signal callers have been working closely with head coach Jon Gruden in the annual three-day quarterback orientation.
Tampa Bay’s third quarterback — Akili Smith — is not attending the session since he’s currently playing for the NFL Europe’s Frankfurt Galaxy.
Both interview sessions have been transcribed and listed below:
QB BRIAN GRIESE:
What are you working on specifically now that you have a year of Jon Gruden’s offensive system under your belt?: “I’m doing a lot of stuff, ranging from working on protections, reads, my footwork, my recognition of the defenses — it’s the whole game, not just one or two things. I’m really working on my entire package, trying to become the best player I can be.”
How do you go about convincing Jon Gruden to give you an offensive line?: “That’s not part of my job (laughing). That’s a good point, though. Part of what I’m trying to do is to learn protections as well as I know routes and concepts so that I can be of more help to those guys on Sundays. I want to be able to make better calls at the line of scrimmage, not just making the right calls and throwing the balls to the right guys, but making sure the offensive line is making correct calls and helping them a little bit at the line of scrimmage so that I’m not getting hit as much.”
Are you lobbying for a wide receiver in the draft?: “I’m not lobbying for anybody. I’ve never watched the draft. I think this year I might have to watch the first hour or so to see who we take. But I think with the fifth overall pick, we’re going to get a quality player, no matter who it is.”
Is this an opportunity for you and Jon Gruden to bounce ideas off of each other?: “Yeah, I think it is. It’s hard to have those lengthy discussions during the season because you’re on a time crunch. You’ve got to get to practice and you have to get things covered during the week and you don’t have the time to have lengthy discussions about the concepts and why we’re doing things. From my standpoint, I’m still learning some of his concepts and how he learned things, and I’m trying to talk to him and express to him some of the things I like as well, so this has been really good.”
Was it tough to see Joe Jurevicius leave?: “Yeah, Joe is a good friend and a great guy. He’s meant a lot to this franchise. He had some great years here and it’s hard to see him go, but I wish him the best. He thought it was a better situation for him, so I’ll just continue to be supportive of him and be a friend of his.”
It looks like some of the possible solutions to last year’s problems will have to come from within this year, from younger guys like (guard) Jeb Terry and (tackle) Anthony Davis. What have you seen from some of the younger guys behind the scenes?: “To be honest with you, I haven’t seen any of those guys this year — this is March. We’ll see as we go through some of the OTAs and as we get into mini-camps and training camp. Those guys are going to need to step up and prove that they’re ready to play because they do have some opportunities and it’s an exciting time for those guys. That’s the message I’m going to portray to them.”
How do you pace yourself between now and the start of training camp?: “There’s things that you really have to keep perspective on. You don’t want to come in here and get too overloaded so that you get to training camp burnt out. I just come in and try to take segments of our offense and try to master those segments at different times. One week I might be working on protections, and the next week I might be working on watching more game film, or whatever it is. I do it that way so you don’t get board, but at the same time you’re always getting better. I just think there are a lot of ways that I can get better and help our team win. I’d be remiss if I didn’t take advantage of the time to do that.”
Are you trying to add size and weight this offseason?: “Yeah, I’m on the upswing. I’m eating six times a day now, probably. No, I’m working hard at it. It’s the same thing. You don’t want to work really hard at it and gain a bunch of weight and not have it be good weight. I’m just trying to put on one or two pounds a week and go from there. I just need to add a little more padding. The guys are big in this league. I’m trying to stay healthy. I need to strengthen my joints and have a little more padding to take the pounding.”
What is your reaction to the 60 Minutes report regarding the alleged steroid use of Bucs tackle Todd Steussie? “I didn’t see the report. I don’t know. I didn’t see it.”
This team appears to be in transition. Where do you see it?: “It’s hard to say. We had a tough year last year, no doubt. Now that I’ve watched the film, and you can make all of the excuses you want, but we were 5-11 and had great opportunities to be 11-5. I’m not as discouraged by what happened last year as I think I’d normally be. I’m really excited about opportunity we do have. It’s going to be a lot of hard work and we’re going to need to overcome a lot. I think what we’ve done with the salary cap has been positive. It had to be done. The guys have been receptive to restructuring contracts and trying to re-sign to come back here and be part of the team and try to do something special. I think that’s the starting point. I’m not pessimistic about this upcoming season, I’m optimistic and excited.”
What struck you about last season after reviewing the film?: “There were a lot of things. We could be very good offensively. Everybody looks at what we did as far as our record, but if I break it down offensively we could be a lot better even though we might not have had all of the talent in the world, we had a lot of injuries, but we still had an opportunity to be great. I competed 69 percent of my passes, but I can be a lot better than that. I had 12 interceptions, I could be a lot better than that. I can manage the game better. There are a lot of things I could do better. If there’s one thing I could take away from it, I think I can improve as a player and help our team.”
Do you think the criticism you received for throwing some untimely interceptions, some of which were returned for touchdowns, is warranted, and do you feel you can do better in that regard?: “I think all interceptions are crucial and critical. I had some picks in the end zone going into the end zone that were critical. People might not look at them that way, but they are. From my standpoint, I get into a rhythm and a situation where things are going well for us, so I might take a risk because you’re feeling it, that’s something I need to address, but I don’t want to lose aggressiveness, either. I think a lot of it is preparation and knowing the offense better. There are a lo of things that go into it, and hopefully all of the work I’m doing will help me to eliminate those turnovers.”
Where do you see areas on this team that make you feel like it’s on the upswing?: “We’ve been put in kind of a tough situation by the past administration. It is what it is. There’s no point in accessing blame now, it’s just a matter of how can we get better? I think there are some young guys that are playing now and will play that we’re expecting to do well. I think that growth of momentum and youth is a good thing for us. I think we also have some veterans that know the game and can manage situations. Hopefully we have a good mix.”
QB CHRIS SIMMS:
How was your orientation?: “It was really good. It was a good way to get started again and get back in a flow. It gives us some good reminders of what we were doing last year, and we can improve on the things we didn’t like and keep going on the things that we did.”
What do you look to get out of these kinds of camps?: “It’s a refresher of the mind so we can remember all of our pass plays, protections and things of that nature. We’re just trying to focus on the things we did well and the things we didn’t do so well.”
With just you and Brian in there, do you have Jon Gruden’s full attention?: “Oh yeah. He’s leading the meeting and we just sit back there and talk football all day. It’s pretty exciting.”
What are your feelings on Brian Griese getting re-signed and entering your third year in the NFL?: “Would I like to be the starter? Sure I would, but the coaches and organization decided they wanted to re-sign Brian, and he had a great year last year. I’m just going to keep on doing what I’ve been doing. I’m going to work hard, hopefully take advantage of my opportunities when I do get them, and go from there. You can’t worry about everything. You’re going to have competition no matter what. I like Brian, so at least he’s here. We’ll have a good time.”
Were you surprised to hear that the Bucs were interested in bringing in guys like Jeff Garcia, Quincy Carter and players of that stature?: “It doesn’t surprise me because Coach Gruden is in love with quarterbacks and he’s trying to make the system work. Every time there’s a free agent quarterback out there, I’m pretty sure we’ve been one of the teams that’s been interested.”
What’s your reaction to Coach Gruden’s critical comments last week in Hawaii: “I did hear about them. I had people calling me and telling me about them the day they came out in the paper. Hey, he’s the head coach and I’m right there with him. There’s a lot of things that I can improve on and didn’t do so well. I definitely tune out the hype and understand what he’s saying there. There are a lot of people wondering why Griese was re-signed and why I’m not the starter, but I think Coach Gruden was just sick of answering that question. I’m heading into my third year and haven’t proven myself much, so I’m sure he’s sick of answering those questions.”
How is your relationship with Coach Gruden right now?: “It’s great. He didn’t hurt my feelings at all. Hey, this is part of football, and if you can’t take constructive criticism and build on that you don’t belong in this league.”
Is it tough to be patient?: “I would say it’s very tough. A lot of quarterbacks have gone through that in their careers, my father being one of them. He started a lot of games his rookie year, but then he had injuries to deal with for the next four or five years, so at least I’m healthy and young. I realize how this league is. Going into last year, I was second string and Brian was third string, and by the season’s end Brian was the star of our team and without question one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. It’s just a crazy league, so you never know what could happen.”
Do you feel cheated by the injury last year?: “Of course I do. I don’t know if I’d say cheated — I guess I was just unlucky. It’s just one of those things that happens. I don’t even know what to say about it — it makes me angry right now. I’m sure I’ll get the opportunity again, so I just can’t get hurt.”
What causes some of the fumbled snaps and missing open receivers?: “Probably my inexperience, and we had Sean Mahan at center, and he’s probably not the most experienced guy in the world, either. The combination of us both being under there — we found a way to screw things up every now and then. The good thing is it’s all correctable. Those are things we’re looking at right now in orientation.”
There’s been certain instances where you had trouble calming yourself down in games — how do you correct that?: “I definitely have to learn to conserve some of my energy. There are certain points in a game where I maybe just get too much geeked up in the game and lose my head and do stupid things. But at the same time, I don’t feel like I let any of those things get the best of me last year. The mistakes I made were just flat out mistakes, that’s all there is to it. I just have to fix them.”
How difficult was it to go on the road against a tough Arizona defense after being sidelined so long with the injury?: “It was tough. I had never been hurt in football before. I had been hurt in basketball, but never a football game. I had never had to go through rehab and try and come back that same season. It was definitely a different experience for me. To finally get that start was great for me because I did get the experience. At the same time, that was a tough defense. They did a lot of things. Throughout that week, I knew it was going to be tough because I was watching guys like Tom Brady and other great quarterbacks in the NFL struggling against this defense, so by no means did I think I was going to go out there and light it up.”
Could you handle this season if you’re not the starter come September?: “Could I handle it? I handle the hand I’m dealt. I have to handle it. We have a bright future with the team and organization. The opportunity will come, I just have to take advantage of it.”
What have your impressions of guys like Jeb Terry and Anthony Davis been?: “Guys like Jeb Terry, Anthony Davis, (wide receiver) Edell Shepherd — you didn’t get a chance to see those guys. Those are guys that I think the team is looking at to contribute this year. Jeb and Anthony have been working extremely hard, and I’m glad they’re getting close to getting their chance.”
What’s the one thing you want to get accomplished this offseason: “I’ll say it probably 50 more times, but it’s consistency. There are times when I look poised and look good, and then there’s times when I bobble two snaps in a row and then drop a snap. Things like that — they can’t happen anymore.”
Do you have any reaction to the 60 Minutes report regarding the alleged steroid use of Bucs tackle Todd Steussie?: “I didn’t see the report. Of course I’m aware of what’s happening. It’s the world we live in right now. I’m sure the NFL will make the proper adjustments and start a new testing program. It’s crazy with all of this stuff going on.”
What is your take on steroid use in the NFL? “It can’t be part of it, especially a physical sport like football. Are you telling me you’re going to take two guys, one that’s taking performance-enhancing drugs and one that’s not, and have them square off against each other? That’s not fair to the guy who is trying to be true to the game.”
Do you ever suspect people around you are taking steroids?: “I can’t say I do. The NFL’s testing program is strict. I got tested for steroids three times last year, and if I’m on steroids I’m getting ripped off (laughing). The league is really strict about it. People find ways and new technology to get around these tests. The league just has to come up with some better tests.”
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