The Tampa Bay Buccaneers appeared to take one step closer to acquiring Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre on Tuesday night when Bucs head coach Jon Gruden spoke with the future Hall of Famer via the telephone, according to the St. Petersburg Times.
However, Gruden would neither confirm nor deny that he had spoken to Favre on Tuesday night.
"I got a lot of phone calls. I got a lot of messages on my cell phone. There's a lot of speculation out there. I don't want to fuel any reports," Gruden said. "I'll talk to [general manager] Bruce Allen. He's not here. He's in New York for a league meeting. There is a labor meeting there. Bruce is the guy you need to talk to. I've obviously been working with our football team and that's what I'm intent on doing.
"There will be speculation no matter what I say around here, okay? Let's be honest on that, okay? I don't want to address it any more because I don't have half of the facts or half of the reports that you've been studying in the last few hours. Last night, I was in a meeting until 10:00 or 10:30 p.m. with the quarterbacks and I'll leave it at that. I'll be happy to address it when I got some concrete information."
Bucs general manager Bruce Allen was back in town for the afternoon practice, but did not address the media on Wednesday.
Favre, 38, retired from the NFL in March, but was reinstated on Sunday. However, after meeting with Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson on Monday and Tuesday, both the Packers and Favre concluded that they were at an impasse and that the best thing to do was part ways.
The fact that Green Bay has refused to release him or trade him to an NFC North rival reportedly has made Favre more receptive to the idea of playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets – the only two teams that the Packers have given permission to speak to Favre up to this point.
ESPN first reported on Tuesday evening that Favre was open to the possibility of being traded to Tampa Bay and was expected to speak with the Bucs as early as that night.
Gruden, who worked with Favre in 1992 as an offensive assistant and from 1993-94 as Green Bay's wide receivers coach, reportedly spoke with Favre on Tuesday night.
A report in the Tampa Tribune stated that the Buccaneers and Packers would finalize a deal that would send Favre to Tampa Bay within the next 24 hours, but sources have told PewterReport.com that the Tribune's report was very premature and that negotiations still were ongoing.
"I don't want to speculate. No disrespect to any of the questions, but for me to keep speculating on this report and that report is just not right," Gruden said. "I have a lot of respect for the situation. It's unprecedented in my opinion. I'm just going to be real careful saying anything right now because I don't have all the facts – nor do you – and maybe you have more than me. I like our practice. I like our football team right now. We have a ways to go to get ready for a preseason game. This situation I'm sure will come to light shortly.
"I don't want to be evasive. I really don't feel it's my point or my purpose to address a lot of issues that I don't know a lot about. Do I know Brett Favre? Yes, I know Brett Favre. Do I respect him? Yes, I do, but I also have a football team here that I am accountable to and I don't want to answer any other questions at this point in time until I get a chance to take a shower and hear from the people inside our building and sit in our staff meetings that can inform me as to what is going on."
Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reported earlier on Wednesday that Favre preferred to play for the Bucs, but the Jets currently are offering more to the Packers in terms of compensation.
Favre's agent, Bus Cook, told the Sporting News that his client was considering playing for both the Bucs and Jets.
"I haven't heard of anywhere else," Cook told the Sporting News regarding teams other than the Bucs and Jets being interested in trading for Favre. "Sure, he'd consider somewhere else, but it would have to be the right place. I don't know for sure, but I think the Packers have called just about everybody. Tampa and the Jets are the two teams out front."
All parties involved appear to want resolution to the ongoing Favre saga as quickly as possible, especially with all NFL teams' training camps well underway.
Some Bucs players and quarterbacks have suggested that Favre, who is familiar with the West Coast offense, could have a difficult time learning the system and being effective by the time Tampa Bay plays its regular season opener vs. New Orleans on Sept. 7. Bucs quarterbacks coach Greg Olson did not necessarily agree with that sentiment.
"Jeff [Garcia] came in and had a winning season right away as a starting quarterback and Brian Griese came in and won right away when he came here the first time," said Olson. "So, as difficult as some of the guys make it sound, both of those guys flourished and played winning football in their first years in Coach Gruden's offense. I don't think it would be that difficult of a situation."
A three-time league MVP and Super Bowl winner, Favre has completed 61.4 percent of his career passes for 61,655 yards and thrown 442 touchdowns and 288 interceptions.
Favre completed 66.5 percent of his passes for 4,155 yards and tossed 28 touchdowns and 15 interceptions en route to leading the Packers to the NFC Championship Game and making the Pro Bowl in 2007.
Tampa Bay currently has five quarterbacks on its roster – Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown, Brian Griese, Chris Simms and Josh Johnson. Olson suggested he wasn't opposed to adding another veteran arm to his current stable of quarterbacks.
"You're always open to every player your team brings to you and I'll coach whatever players are here," said Olson. "I have a good group of quarterbacks right now. If that changes in the coming weeks, then so be it. In the meantime, we'll work with the guys we have on our roster."
Garcia, 38, missed his sixth straight day of practice with a calf injury. He was not out on the practice field on Wednesday morning, but Gruden suggested he was on the mend.
"He's doing better. Thank you for asking that," Gruden said. "Jeff is doing better. It's been a tough training camp for us in the fact that he's missed the first three days of training camp and he's missed the last six, and for obvious reasons. It's not his fault."
With Garcia sidelined, McCown will start vs. the Miami Dolphins in both teams' preseason opener on Saturday night.
McCown, who is entering the final year of his contract with Tampa Bay, started three games in place of Garcia last year. He's been competing with Griese for the No. 2 job behind Garcia, but said he and his Buccaneer teammates would welcome Favre with open arms should he be traded to Tampa Bay.
"Certainly," McCown said when asked if he'd be welcomed. "Why wouldn't he be [welcomed]? He's had a Hall of Fame career. He's won championships and MVPs. He was one pass away from the Super Bowl last year. Why wouldn't you welcome a great player like that? Playing or not, you're going to learn something, so why not?"
Simms, who is also in a contract year, echoed McCown's sentiments regarding Favre.
"I think he would be received great," said Simms. "Why not? He's awesome. He's a guy I grew up watching. I was in seventh or eighth grade when he was in Super Bowls. He's an idol. I think there are a lot of guys that would welcome him very warmly here."
Should Favre wind up in Tampa Bay, it could give Simms what he asked for earlier in the offseason – his release or a trade. Simms will continue to keep his eye on the Favre situation as it unfolds because it could very well decide his future with the Bucs.
"It might, and I do look at it like that," Simms. "At the same time, I'm still going to be working to get myself better and we'll see what happens. I can't control any of this. I'm just as interested to see what happens as you guys are. I guess we'll see what the circus brings us."
Griese missed Tuesday afternoon's practice, which led to some speculation that he might be dealt as part of a trade with Green Bay for Favre. However, Griese told the media on Wednesday morning that he was simply given the afternoon off and wasn't concerned about the Favre rumors as they pertain to his future in Tampa Bay.
"The one thing that you do understand in the NFL is that it is a business first and foremost," said Griese. "You always expect the unexpected. I've been through it a couple of times. You learn over time that you can only control what you're responsible for.
"It's a unique situation [with Favre] and I doubt you'll ever see it again."
Although Gruden was vague in addressing the rumors and reports, he did shed some light into Tampa Bay's thought process and interest in acquiring Favre.
"When you're the coach and you're a quarterback in this league, there is speculation about me, there's speculation about them, there's speculation about all of us," Gruden said. "Our number one objective is to win and we'll do anything we can to get the best football team we can. That's all I can say. That's something that will not change. We feel like we have a very good work ethic. We are a good football team and we're trying to become a great one. We'll do anything we can to get better, and if that involves looking at other players – by George, that's our job. That's our responsibility."
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