Despite the fact that Jake Plummer made it known that he intended to retire from the NFL, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers still sent a conditional 2008 draft pick to the Denver Broncos in exchange for the quarterback’s services on Mar 4.

Why?

The Buccaneers, particularly head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen, believe Plummer, 32, will play football again even though he’s publicly announced his retirement twice this month.

They’ve attempted to talk Plummer into playing for Tampa Bay in their telephone conversations with him, but to no avail.

But Gruden and Allen aren’t the only ones who have attempted to call Plummer in an effort to talk him into playing for the Buccaneers this season.

“I tried to talk to Jake,” said Bucs running back Michael Pittman, who played with Plummer in Arizona for four seasons. “Coach Gruden asked me if I’d give him a call, and we were on the same page because I was going to ask Coach Gruden to let me try and call him. I tried to call Jake a couple of times, but he didn’t return any of my phone calls.”

According to Pittman, another one of Plummer’s former Arizona teammates, Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice, also attempted to recruit Plummer, but that effort yielded similar results.

“Simeon called me up and asked me what was going on with Jake,” said Pittman. “I told him that I tried to call him, so I gave Sim the number to see if he could get in touch with Jake, but he didn’t return any of Simeon’s phone calls, either.”

Before signing with Tampa Bay as a free agent in 2002, Pittman played with Plummer and the Cardinals from 1998-01. Plummer’s career with Arizona lasted six seasons (1997-02) before he signed with the Denver Broncos.

Although they were no longer teammates, Pittman and Plummer remained friends and have stayed in contact over the years.

Like many others, Pittman was surprised when Plummer announced his retirement from the NFL.

Some believe Plummer won’t really retire and that his retirement announcement is a ploy for him to get traded to another team, possibly Houston, where his former offensive coordinator, Gary Kubiak, is now the head coach of the Texans. That theory carries some weight seeing as Plummer has yet to file his retirement papers with the NFL.

Others have suggested Plummer isn’t happy that Denver traded him to Tampa Bay, where he’ll have to compete with Jeff Garcia and Chris Simms for the starting job.

While he can only speculate for Plummer’s reason(s) for retiring, Pittman believes his former teammate will not follow through on it and will play football again.

“I think Jake is probably weighing his options right now,” said Pittman. “I really think Jake knows for a fact that he still has the game in his blood and that he’s not ready to retire. I just don’t think he’s thinking rationally right now.

“I played with Jake, and he’s a big-time competitor. He wants to be the best. But maybe Jake doesn’t want to compete for the starting job here. Maybe he wants to go somewhere where he can be the man right away. I don’t know if it’s something where he just doesn’t want to come to Tampa, or maybe he wants to go to Houston and be with his old coach. On the other hand, I think Jake is still a very good football player. That’s why I really don’t think Jake is going to retire.”

Tampa Bay entered the offseason determined to upgrade its quarterback position, and it was successful, evidenced by the signing of Garcia and the addition of Plummer, both of whom have combined for 228 career starts in the NFL.

Plummer has completed 57.1 percent of his career passes for 29,253 yards. He has tossed 161 touchdowns and 160 interceptions during his 10-year career. Plummer also produced a 40-18 record as Denver’s starting quarterback.

Pittman believes the Buccaneers would benefit from Plummer’s presence and abilities on the football field.

“Jake is one of the most athletic quarterbacks in the game,” said Pittman. “He can throw the ball out of the pocket or on the run. He’s also a great leader. I mean, Jake makes some mistakes just like we all do out on the football field. But Jake is a great leader. In Arizona, Jake would take the entire offense out to dinner and he’d pick up the whole bill. He’s got his teammates’ backs. That’s just the type of player and person Jake is.

“That’s why I was kind of surprised when Jake didn’t call me back. It’s like, ‘Hey, Jake, you can call me back, man. We’re friends.’ But Jake is a good player and person. He has such a passion for the game, and I know he can still play, and I know he knows he can still play. That’s why I’d be pretty surprised and disappointed if Jake did decide to retire. If he does come around and decides to play in Tampa Bay, we’ll be getting a great quarterback and teammate.”

While Pittman and the Buccaneers hold out hope that Plummer will play again, Garcia isn't wasting any time in terms of getting to know his teammates. In fact, Garcia apparently went out of his way to get on the same page with some his new teammates before the team’s offseason program began on Monday.

“Jeff called me [Friday] and left like a three-minute message on my phone,” said Pittman. “He just explained how excited he was to play with guys like myself and the rest of our teammates. He was eager to get on the same page with everyone so he could help turn this thing around. He’s a veteran player, and veteran players know what it takes to get a team back in the hunt.

“The guys we’ve picked up this offseason have a lot of fire. Jeff is 37 years old, but he doesn’t play like he’s 37 years old. The guy still looks like he’s playing like he’s in his 20s. I watched him all of last year in Philadelphia, and I think he’s going to do a great job here. The competition between Jeff, Chris, and if Jake is here, is going to be great.”

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