It didn't take the Tampa Bay Buccaneers long to get their minds off their 23-17 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday night.
That's because the Bucs and the other 31 teams in the NFL must trim their rosters from 80 to 75 players by 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday.
While most players dread looming roster cut dates, Buccaneers quarterback Chris Simms is taking a much different approach and might even be hoping to be released. Simms did, after all, ask for his release or a trade during the offseason, but to no avail.
After finishing the past two seasons on injured reserve due to the lingering effects of a spleen injury he suffered in 2006, Simms skipped organized team activities and the mandatory mini-camp, but played in training camp and Tampa Bay's first two preseason games.
Tampa Bay currently has five quarterbacks on its roster – Jeff Garcia, Brian Griese, Luke McCown, Simms and rookie Josh Johnson. Simms does not believe he has a future with the Bucs, which is one of the reasons why he has asked to be released or traded. Simms did not play vs. the Jaguars on Saturday night, which has some wondering if his five-year tenure in Tampa Bay is about to come to an end. Simms is waiting to see if his wish to get out of Tampa Bay and have an opportunity to join another team is finally granted.
"I'm not uneasy about the situation at all," Simms said. "Whatever the powers that be … we shall see. I'm a poet.
"I really don't know [if I'll play next week]. Like tonight, I wasn't really sure if I was going to play a lot tonight. That was according to how Jeff felt and what happened there. It just didn't work out. That's all there is to it."
Simms completed 10-of-14 passes for 84 yards in Tampa Bay's first two preseason contests of the year. He has been fairly pleased with how he's played up to this point.
"It was a good start," Simms said. "I did some good things [against Miami] with some things I could definitely improve on and the same with last week [against New England]. Each game, each week is just another step of me feeling better and better about myself and just getting back in the groove of playing quarterback again."
Simms has been the subject of several trade rumors throughout the offseason and even during training camp. But he doesn't believe he'll be traded to another team at this point. However, Simms does believe he'll get the opportunity to play for another team should Tampa Bay decide to part ways with the 2003 third-round draft pick.
"I don't think I'm going to get traded," Simms said. "I don't envision that happening, but at the same time, I'll get a shot somewhere.
"I'm a huge sports fan, so I watch the sports channels all day long and I see what's going on. Every team has their own situation. I know who the starter and the back up is just about everywhere in the league. I guess it's somewhat my job to know that kind of stuff. We're competitors and we know who we're competing against out there. I haven't talked to my agent in a week or so. I'm just playing it by ear."
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden suggested after Saturday night's preseason loss to Jacksonville that Tampa Bay likely would release at least one quarterback before the start of the 2008 regular season. With a fifth-round draft pick invested in Johnson, there's a chance the Bucs will keep four signal callers on their 53-man roster, which must be determined by Aug. 30.
"We all know there are tough decisions to me made," Gruden said. "I like all of them a lot. I don't know how you or anyone else develops quarterbacks unless you take them to training camp. You can criticize or say what you want, but we're trying to develop a quarterback and you can't do that when they are in Terre Haute, Indiana. You've got to have them in camp, put them in meetings and hold them accountable. Then you have to try to manufacture as many reps and opportunities as you can. We won't keep five and it will be hard to say goodbye to somebody. We tried our best and we'll let you know what happens."
Several players have impressed for the Buccaneers in camp and preseason, which will make the coaching staff's roster cuts even more difficult to make. While he cannot promise each of the 80 players on his current roster a chance to go to the regular season with Tampa Bay, Gruden insists that he and his coaching staff have given each player an opportunity to showcase their abilities.
"One of the great things about being in America is you give people opportunities," Gruden said. "We did that and that's what I'm most proud of with our coaches. We gave every guy on our roster a chance in the preseason to make the football team and to be seen by everybody else that has a projector."
Two players that have opened some eyes in camp and preseason – running back Clifton Smith and cornerback Elbert Mack – have impressed, but the 53-man roster limit could force the Bucs to have to release them and attempt to sneak them onto their eight-man practice squad or watch them catch on with another team.
"He's a good football player," Gruden said of Smith. "You get attached to and learn to like some of these guys. They come to work and make plays every day. We have some tough decisions to make, that's for sure.
"Everybody talks about Elbert, I told [cornerback Aqib Talib, ‘What's the deal, man?' Aqib made some big plays against a fine receiver in Reggie Williams tonight. Elbert's in the mix. He's in the mix, and as we said earlier, it will be a tough call for us. He's got some good film out there and I'm sure that there are people in the league that like him."
Others apparently have already shown enough to earn a spot on Tampa Bay's 53-man roster, or at least survive the first round of roster cuts, which will come down on Tuesday afternoon.
"Antonio [Bryant] had swelling on the knee, and to be honest with you, I wanted to see some other receivers," Gruden said when asked why Bryant did not play vs. the Jaguars. "We've all talked about them and they all have made plays periodically through camp. Everybody has had hot streaks. We got a good like at Maurice [Stovall] and Mike [Clayton], obviously, as starters. We got a chance to see a little more of Brian Clark and Cortez Hankton and some of the other guys. We'll look at the film and make a tough decision.
"We did go to Mike [Clayton] a lot. We tried to toss him a reverse on third-and-1. He made a big play in the end zone. I thought one ball got away from him. He's a heck of a receiver and he's going to be a big part of our football team.
"[Jimmy Wilkerson] had a great preseason and that makes me believe he can have a real good regular season. He's a hard-working guy that can play inside and out. He's really in the mix and he's really firing a lot of people up in our organization."
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