Second-year quarterback Chris Simms’ debut as Tampa Bay’s starting quarterback was derailed Sunday late in the first quarter when he was sacked by New Orleans rookie defensive end Will Smith.

That play caused Simms to fumble and knocked him out of the game with what has been deemed a sprained left shoulder, which prompted the Bucs to list Simms as doubtful for Monday night’s game in St. Louis.

With Simms listed as day-to-day and likely unavailable for next Monday night’s game in St. Louis, Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden announced Monday that he will start Brian Griese, who stepped in for Simms and led the Bucs to a 20-17 victory by completing 16-of-19 (84.2 percent) passes for 194 yards and tossing one touchdown.

Simms, who completed 5-of-8 passes for 68 yards before leaving Sunday’s game with the injury to his throwing shoulder, probably won’t practice this week, but Gruden stopped short of naming Brad Johnson, who began the 2004 season as the team’s starter but served as the third-string (emergency) quarterback against the Saints, Griese’s backup.

“We’ll announce all those plans later in the wee,” Gruden said when asked who would be Griese’s backup on Monday night. “I’d just as soon talk about the game. I think Brian Griese, what he did yesterday was outstanding, going in there and completing 16 out of 19 in a very tough, hostile place to play. Chris Simms obviously did a tremendous job engineering a 13-play, 70-yard drive at the beginning of the game. Unfortunately, he couldn’t finish. We’ll address the backup quarterback. I’m sure there are people who are curious as to why Brad was inactive, and rightfully so. But Brad Johnson’s a big part of this team and he’s going to continue to be that.”

ESPN reported Sunday that Johnson, 36, wanted to be released or traded due to his recent demotion. Johnson’s agent, Phil Williams, told on Sunday that his client had not mentioned that to him, and Gruden attempted to squash that report when asked about it on Monday.

“We are not going to trade Brad Johnson,” Gruden said. “I am not going to answer all of the rumor mill. I have heard Chris Mortensen’s comments and there are a lot of inaccuracies out there. Brad Johnson is a big part of the football team and will continue to be that.”

According to Gruden, deciding on a quarterback to back up Simms on Sunday was difficult, especially since Johnson had been Tampa Bay’s starter for the past three seasons and the first four games of the 2004 regular season, and Griese had made a strong push for playing time in preseason and practice.

“A lot goes into it. Obviously, we’re excited about our quarterback situation,” said Gruden. “We tried to make that point perfectly clear throughout the preseason. We think Simms is going to be a very good player. Brian Griese has a history in the league that’s very impressive, and he’s a quick study, a 29-year-old guy that we’re very, very excited about. Brad Johnson’s an outstanding player. We think that position is a strength of ours. But a lot goes into it — the development of young players. They’re all different in terms of their play. You look at the team that we have, you look at the dynamics of everything. The input from your entire staff. We try to be fair and we try to put the right guy in there to give us a chance to win.”

Gruden’s playbook appeared to open up with Griese and Simms in the starting lineup. The Bucs ran several play-action rollouts and naked bootlegs against the Saints. But Gruden was pleased most with both quarterbacks’ willingness to take some shots downfield, which translated into three completions of over 20 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown strike from Griese to tight end Ken Dilger.

“I guess you can say the play-calling hasn’t been that good around here, but we took some shots,” said Gruden. “And we tried to take some shots in previous games. The plays were there, the throws were delivered and the guys made the plays. That’s a credit to everybody on the offense. The protection held up and we got some open looks and we hit the open targets, which was very exciting, obviously.”

Before signing a three-year contract with Tampa Bay last spring, Griese had spent the previous season with the Miami Dolphins and the first five years of his career with the Denver Broncos.

The 6-foot-3, 218-pound Griese had started 56 of the first 58 games he had played in and completed 61.8 percent of his passes for 12,576 yards and tossed 76 touchdowns and 59 interceptions. Needless to say, his ability to come off the bench and lead the Buccaneers to their first victory of the 2004 regular season pleased Gruden.

“I think that was key for him and for us,” Gruden said of the Bucs’ decision to sign Griese during the offseason. “I can’t really say that in my years of coaching, that I have seen a guy come in, off the bench, and play that well in a situation where we really needed him to do that. He sparked us. He ignited us. He made some great plays in the game. In fairness to Brian Griese, he has worked hard. He’s been here everyday. I don’t even know if he went on a honeymoon. He has paid a great price to learn our stuff and been patient. This guy can play. He’s thrown 80 touchdown passes in the league. He led the AFC in passing efficiency. He succeeded John Elway (in Denver), handpicked by (Broncos head coach) Mike Shanahan, who I respect tremendously. He is 29 years old. He’s had some bumps in the road; much like a lot of us have had, but what he did yesterday is for real. It was a heck of a show he put on.”

Will Simms have a starting job when he recovers from his shoulder injury or is the job now Griese’s to lose?

“Chris is hurt and we are just going to deal with the reality of business here,” Gruden said. “Chris is hurt. If Chris had stayed healthy and played like he was playing, he would have continued to be our starter. He’s not healthy; he’s hurt. Brian Griese did a hell of a job. He’s starting. He’s a guy we are excited about. I don’t want to be disrespectful to Brad. I am sure there will be some people in town that will maybe think differently, but I know how I feel in my heart. I believe it is Brian Griese’s time now to take the ball.”

The Buccaneers received solid play from their wide receiving corps on Sunday.

Bucs rookie WR Michael Clayton hauled in four passes for 61 yards while WR Charles Lee, who started at the split-end (X) position, caught four passes for 76 yards against the Saints.

While Clayton, who leads the team in receptions (23) and receiving yards (301) and has scored one touchdown, and Lee, have performed well, the team could be get help in that department in the upcoming weeks as receivers Joey Galloway (groin) and Joe Jurevicuis (back/knee) appear to be on the mend.

According to Bucs head coach Jon Gruden, Galloway, who was injured in the first quarter of Tampa Bay’s Week 1 contest in Washington, could be back for the team’s November 7 game against Kansas City.

“They tell me he is going to start to run patterns towards the end of this week,” Gruden said of Galloway. “We miss Galloway. We expect to have him after the bye at some point.”

As for Jurevicius, Gruden didn’t want to get his hopes up for his return since the receiver has been plagued by injuries for over a year.

“I don’t know,” Gruden said when asked how close Jurevicius was to returning. “I won’t comment on Joe until he gets off the PUP list and then we get 21 days basically to evaluate him and make our decision. I think if you ask him, he’s confident. He’s closing in on the reality of playing again.”

In the meantime, Gruden is hoping the playmaking ability of both Clayton and Lee spreads throughout the Bucs’ offense, which is ranked 25th overall.

“That’s what we are supposed to have here,” Gruden said of Clayton and his playmaking ability. “Everyone else does. They had them yesterday and they are going to have them this week. Everybody’s got those kind of guys and dammit, we are going to have three or four of those also. He’s a guy that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need. He’s the kind of guy we are looking for and hopefully, we can get two, three, or four other guys just like him because that’s what we are after.

“I think Charles stepped up here this past game. He had a fumble early in the Denver game. You can’t do that. You can’t turn the ball over like he did. I thought after the fumble, he regrouped. He’s played well in the last six or seven quarters. Once again, we hope to get Joey Galloway back. We hope to get Joe Jurevicius back shortly after the bye. In the time being, I am very pleased with Charles Lee’s production the last couple of games and Michael Clayton as well.”

Chris Simms wasn’t the only player that left the game after the big sack in the first quarter. Bucs right tackle Todd Steussie, who was the one that allowed Saints defensive end Will Smith to sack Simms, was replaced by T Kenyatta Walker after that costly mistake.

Walker replaced Steussie, who signed a six-year contract with Tampa Bay during the offseason, for the rest of the game, and according to Bucs head coach Jon Gruden, the starting right tackle job is open for competition.

“It’s very competitive, obviously,” Gruden said. “Kenyatta is a guy who has played a lot of football here. It’s a credit to him, for being mentally tough and competing. I think Todd Steussie has brought out the best in Kenyatta Walker. That was our intent all along; to let the best man play. Steussie has done some good things for us, as has Kenyatta. We’ll work both of those guys together on the practice field hard and make our decision, who will start, and who will play on Monday night.”

Believe it or not, Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber leads the team in touchdowns this season with two.

During the second quarter of Sunday’s game in New Orleans, Barber recovered a fumble caused by defensive end Greg Spires and returned it 18 yards for a touchdown, which gave the Bucs a 13-7 lead. In Week 1, Barber scored the Bucs’ only touchdown of the game against the Redskins by recovering a fumble on a quarterback-running back exchange and returned it nine yards for a score.

“He’s one of my favorite guys.,” Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said of Barber. “He’s just a good-looking guy. He’s opportunistic. He’s a team captain. He’s a stud. He’s an instinctive, great football player; he is everyday and every week and it’s plays like that, that win you games. It’s plays like that, that have won us a lot of games here in the last seven or eight years, since he has been here, and once again he struck yesterday.”

The Bucs received some much-needed help from their NFC South Division opponents on Sunday.

While the Bucs (1-4) defeated the Saints (2-3), the Broncos downed the Carolina Panthers (1-3) and the Detroit Lions beat the Atlanta Falcons (4-1).

If Philadelphia (4-0) defeats Carolina and Minnesota (3-1) downs New Orleans next Sunday, Tampa Bay will move into second place in the NFC South Division with a win over St. Louis on Monday night.

“We like the fact that Atlanta lost,” said Bucs head coach Jon Gruden. “We like the fact that they lost a lot. We like to see Carolina lose. We’re always pleased when the Saints lose. That’s just the way it is in football. We gained some ground and we’ve got some confidence. Some guys stepped up, which was good. We are really excited about this football team.”

Bucs middle linebacker Shelton Quarles (right quad strain)) and guard Matt Stinchcomb (left pec strain) are listed as probable for Monday night’s game against the Rams. Quarterback Chris Simms (left shoulder sprain) is listed as doubtful.

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