Bucs general manager Bruce Allen and head coach Jon Gruden attended the Tampa Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Downtown on Friday afternoon. Joining them were players Maurice Stovall, Barrett Ruud, and Aqib Talib. All of the Buccaneers representatives answered questions regarding the team.
For the first time, Allen and Gruden spoke about the recent comments made by quarterback Chris Simms, where he characterized his relationship with Gruden as "broken." Since Simms went public with his feelings, the Buccaneers did not respond to Simms' comments until Friday.
"I like Chris Simms. I don't necessarily agree with everything he said," said Gruden. "But I'm going to coach the quarterbacks that are here. I'm really excited about the guys that are here. I wish Chris and his situation well. That's the last I'll address it. He's made his statements and unfortunately that's all I can say. I like Jeff Garcia. I prefer talking about him, Brian Griese, and Luke McCown."
Added Allen: "I think his advisors pulled a PR stunt. I don't think it portrays Chris well. That's not the Chris Simms I've talked to on the phone. I can't worry about that. We have too many players that are trying to help this team win. Those are the players that we're going to focus on.
"It's not the feelings that [Simms] and I talked about. I will always keep my conversations with players private."
Some media outlets have reported that Tampa Bay was offered a late-round draft pick for Simms back in April. Pewter Report reported earlier that the Bucs received no concrete offers prior to Simms clarifying that earlier this week.
"No, no I've addressed it, and I think he addressed it in his second interview. There were no offers," said Allen.
With Simms wanting to move on with another organization, the Bucs may be in a position to add other players in a deal for Simms. Prior to the luncheon, Allen was asked if it is possible for the team to still add an important piece for next season.
"I think there can be. Nothing is unique in the league right now," said Allen. "There are a lot of players thinking about it or are trying to move to a different team. If we are the right fit for somebody we will pursue it. If we can upgrade the talent on this team with the right kind of guy to come into our locker room, we will."
One player the Buccaneers had hoped would be an important member of their team is retired quarterback Jake Plummer. When Plummer retired the Buccaneers and Broncos filed three joint grievances to recover some of Plummer's signing bonus. Earlier this week Tampa Bay and Plummer settled on $3.5 million to be repaid.
"It wasn't tough. I truly respect Jake," said Allen of the negotiations on the deal. "Not only as a player I've talked about him as a player. To go through what he went through last season and was always honest with his opinion that he wasn't going to play. The previous things that happened to him had soured him on football.
"We reached a resolution that he felt okay with and we felt okay with, and I still think he has something to offer pro football. He left the game as the fourth-winningest quarterback in the NFL behind three Super Bowl winners. That's pretty impressive numbers."
Aside from Simms and Plummer, there were other players that have not been with the Bucs. Running back Earnest Graham has not been at any of the Buccaneers' offseason practices. Graham and team have been discussing a contract extension, and Graham's displeasure with his current contract is believed to be the reason why he is avoiding voluntary team activities. Allen spoke about Graham's situation on Friday.
"As we talked before, he didn't make it to a lot of last offseason's workouts," said Allen. "It's given some players an opportunity to get some extra turns in practice and extra reps. I think a lot of those players have taken advantage of that to get ready for the competition, and we're going to have great competition at training camp."
"I'm sure it's going to work out," added Allen later on.
Graham was not the only running back that was discussed. The status of injured running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams was elaborated on by Allen and Gruden.
"Cadillac had a horrible injury," said Gruden. "In Week 4 of the season at Carolina. What he's done is nothing short of miraculous. If you see Cadillac walking around Tampa please put your arm around him. He's worked his tail off to play football this season. The amount of work he's put forth has excited our players."
Allen shared Gruden's sentiments regarding Williams and his attempt to recover from a torn patellar injury he suffered last year.
"We wanted to bring him here and out this morning, but he wouldn't miss the workout," said Allen. "He's doing well. I know some of you have seen him when you've been at practice. His work ethic and his drive to come back are remarkable. He wants to perform in the mini-camp. We're going to have to harness him a little bit.
"I've remained hopeful whether you're a healthy player or an injured player, what makes the difference in the NFL is your drive. Your competitive drive. I think he's going to prove a point to everybody that doubted him."
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