Tampa Bay will play its third preseason contest of the year when it travels to Miami to take on the Dolphins on Saturday night.

Quarterback Chris Simms, on the other hand, hopes Saturday night will mark the night of his 2007 preseason debut.

Simms struggled throughout organized team activities and training camp after undergoing a season-ending splenectomy last September.

Some have speculated that Simms is not healthy and is a candidate to be placed on injured reserve or the Physically Unable to Perform list. However, that is not the case since Simms is indeed healthy. Simms suggested Monday that he is essentially rusty.

“I think I’m 100 percent healthy,” said Simms. “Am I 100 percent recovered? That’s where I guess you could say I’m not exactly where I was before I got hurt.

“I’m not injured. I think it’s just a matter of me getting my body back to the way it was.”

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Simms’ form and mechanics have been off ever since he began throwing the football again in December.

The former 2003 third-round draft pick’s throwing woes have led to his reps being reduced and the reps of quarterbacks Luke McCown and Bruce Gradkowski being increased.

With just two preseason contests left to be played and the first set of league-mandated roster cuts scheduled for the upcoming weekend, Simms is under the gun to show a significant amount of improvement between now and the start of the 2007 regular season.

“It is frustrating,” said Simms. “I’m a competitor and I want to be out there and want to play. If you asked me two months ago if this was going to happen I would have never envisioned it. It’s been a little more of an obstacle to overcome than I thought. I’m just going to continue to battle and get myself better. You know me. I always try to stay positive, but this training camp was the hardest I’ve ever been through.”

Last week, Simms told Pewter Report that he was prepared to sit out the entire 2007 season if Tampa Bay does in fact release him in an effort to get his body right.

However, Simms said Monday that he feels like he’s improving and is ready to see his workload in practice increased.

“Sometimes it’s hard to tell day-to-day, but I know last Monday to this Monday I can definitely tell a difference,” said Simms. “There’s no doubt about it.

“I just feel like I have a little more control over my body and my arm. Things just seem to click a little better whereas before certain throws were a lot of work for me just to get them done. Now it feels a little more natural.”

In fact, Simms hopes to play against the Dolphins on Saturday night.

“I just plan to continue to get better and we’ll see what happens this weekend. Hopefully I can give it a go,” said Simms.

However, Gruden said Simms would have to earn that right by performing better in practice.

“I don’t know. We’ll have to update you here, see how he does,” Gruden said of Simms. “He’s got to earn the snaps on the practice field, and when he does we’ll play him.”

As for how he will handle being hit for the first time since he suffered his spleen injury in Week 3 of the 2006 season if he does in fact make his preseason debut against the Dolphins, Simms said it’s something he is looking forward to.

“I am [looking forward to getting hit],’ said Simms. “I can’t deny that. That’s the big thing for every quarterback during preseason is to get that first hit because we don’t get hit all offseason. The first one will be good. If you’re trying to insinuate about my injury, I’m not worried about that. I just want the first hit just to get it and feel like I’m in the game. It’s officially football season once I hit the grass.”

Want the inside scoop on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2007 offseason plans? Want to find out who the Bucs are targeting in free agency and the NFL Draft? Subscribe to PewterReport.com's Pewter Insider by clicking here.

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