The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the field to hold two mandatory mini-camp practices at One Buccaneer Place Tuesday.

One of the players that did not participate was quarterback Luke McCown, who sustained a knee injury during an organized team activity last Tuesday.

McCown’s knee injury, believed to be a partially torn ACL, has been deemed serious. In fact, he will undergo surgery in Miami this week and likely will miss at least the first part of the 2006 regular season.

He’s going to have surgery here in the next couple days,” Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said of McCown. “Our main man down in Miami, Dr. [John] Zvijac, will do a great job, and [trainer] Todd Toriscelli will begin the rehab process immediately. We can only update you as time moves on, but right now he won’t be with us for the early part of the season. But knowing Luke McCown like I do, he’ll be back sooner than most guys.”

McCown, who joined Tampa Bay last year after the Bucs traded a sixth-round pick to Cleveland in exchange for his services, was said to be having a strong offseason up until the injury, the extent of which will not be known until after the surgery has been completed.

Although McCown has not been ruled out for the entire season, the Bucs already have discussed the possibility of placing him on the physically unable to perform list when training camp rolls round next month.

“That’s a good possibility,” Gruden said of the possibility of placing McCown on the PUP. “Again, when we see the results of this surgery, Dr. Zvijac will let us know. He’s worked so well with us in the past. We’ll make a final conclusion then.”

One thing that appears to be going in the 25-year-old McCown’s favor is the fact that he’s a young, well-conditioned athlete and fast healer, both of which are attributes that could get him back on the field faster than anticipated.

“I’ve generally throughout my career been a fast-healer from anything,” McCown said. “It’s just a matter of getting back, getting strong, getting my legs back under me and getting going.”

While Chris Simms is the Bucs’ undisputed starter, McCown served as Simms’ backup last year, even after the Bucs had acquired Tim Rattay via a trade with the San Francisco 49ers. With McCown out indefinitely, Rattay, who has 16 career starts, appears to be the leading candidate for the No. 3 QB job behind Simms. But the Bucs aren’t ruling out the possibility of acquiring a veteran quarterback to help fill the void left by McCown.

“We’ve got four quarterbacks,” Gruden said. “We’re not going to just bring anybody in because he has experience. We’re looking for somebody out there who has good experience who can come in and play well and help us. If there’s a guy like that out there who we deem is worthy of bringing in here, we’ll do that. But if we don’t, we have a young quarterback in Chris Simms who needs a lot of work, and [rookie] Bruce Gradkowski needs a lot of work and Tim Rattay needs a lot of work. Jared Allen had a good stint over there in the World League. If we bring a guy in, we’re going to bring a guy in with a purpose.”

According to Gruden, McCown and Rattay were having a competitive battle for the right to back up Simms this year. Even with McCown sidelined for what could be the entire 2006 season, the Bucs expect that competition to continue at the quarterback position.

“[McCown] was in a battle with Tim Rattay, and Bruce Gradkowski is not going to go away,” said Gruden. “It’s going to be very interesting to see where Bruce can go in the next three or four months. We’re going to miss McCown’s athleticism, certainly. He was getting better in all areas and hopefully he gets back soon.”

Bryant, Fonoti Miss Tuesday’s Practices
Bucs quarterback Luke McCown had good reason to skip both workouts, and to his credit he made it out to the field for the afternoon practice and even threw a few passes with a brace on his right knee.

However, two other players – defensive tackle Anthony Bryant and guard Toniu Fonoti – were not at One Buc Place for the mandatory workouts on Tuesday.

According to Bucs head coach Jon Gruden, Bryant’s absence was excused as he is dealing with an illness in the family. However, the same could not be said for Fonoti.

“Anthony Bryant, our young defensive lineman, has an illness in the family,” said Gruden. “He was excused.

“Fonoti, our big offensive lineman, we don’t know where he is today. Hopefully he gets in here soon. He needs to be here.”

As of late Tuesday, there was no official word from the Bucs regarding Fonoti’s absence.

Congratulations, Chris Simms
Bucs quarterback Chris Simms’ wife gave birth to a baby girl on Father’s Day, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

Simms wasn’t affected by the added excitement or stress that comes with being a new father, according to Gruden, who watched his starting quarterback closely during Tuesday’s practices.

“He’s had a big week,” said Gruden. “I took the quarterbacks with me yesterday to Black Diamond [Golf Course]. We really thank the people up there for letting us invade their golf course. Chris was invited but had to take a rain check because his wife gave birth. The baby is healthy, and Chris is a father and our starting quarterback. God bless Chris Simms today.”

Lightning Strikes
Tampa Bay made it through its two-hour morning practice without incident. However, the Bucs’ afternoon practice was cut short by about an hour due to severe weather in the Bay Area.

The Bucs will conduct a mandatory practice at Raymond James Stadium on Wednesday. The practice is not open to the public.

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