Don’t rule Chris Simms out of the quarterback competition just yet.
Simms, who has been limited from a throwing standpoint in training camp due to a “sore elbow,” took some reps during 7-on-7 drills and threw even more passes on the practice field after Friday morning’s workout concluded.
“It’s without a doubt improved,” Simms said of his elbow. “I’m the kind of guy that’s never had a sore arm in m life. I think you guys saw the amount of balls I threw in camp last year. It’s just the same type of thing. I have some bad mechanics and I’m just not firing on all cylinders yet.”
Not only did he throw during practice, Simms was impressive at times. His best throw came on a bomb to down the left seam to wide receiver Joey Galloway, whom he his in stride.
“That was good,” said Simms. “It feels like it’s been a long time since I threw a deep ball like that.”
But Simms, who underwent an emergency splenectomy after a Week 3 contest vs. Carolina last season, has a lot of ground to make up. His absence allowed QB Luke McCown to receive extra reps, and he’s been taking advantage of them.
Jeff Garcia has already established himself as the starter, and if he’s going to make the 53-man roster, Simms will have to outperform McCown and/or second-year QB Bruce Gradkowski.
Simms will need to continue to improve in order to make progress in the stiff quarterback competition in training camp.
“He is well rested,” Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said of Simms. “I don’t know how many balls he threw, he’s still down there throwing, so obviously it’s nothing that serious. I don’t’ know the exact terms that have been thrown around here, but he’s a guy that needs to regain his rhythm.
“Forget about how he’s throwing it. We need accurate passes, timely decision making and playmaking from that position. That’s the objective. It doesn’t matter who we’re talking about. McCown has gotten better with his absence and Garcia clearly has taken control at the quarterback position. But we like Chris. He’s a great kid, hard worker and look for a little bit more of him this afternoon, hopefully.”
Simms was extremely limited again during the afternoon practice. He isn’t sure when he’ll recapture his throwing form and rhythm or if he’ll even play in Tampa Bay’s first preseason game against the New England Patriots, which is scheduled for Aug. 10.
While he wants to compete for a roster spot, Simms’ first priority is to regain his form. His progress on Friday was a step in the right direction.
“I’m really not worried about it,” said Simms. “I just need to take care of myself and make sure I come back to where I can be. I’m not worried about first, second or third string – I just want to play. I’m just not where I need to be yet. I’m just going to continue to bust my butt and take it from there.”
PETITGOUT STILL OUT Despite the fact that Gruden has told the media that tackle Luke Petitgout would return to practice over the past two days, it still hasn’t happened yet.
Petitgout, 31, has been held out of several practices due to a back strain. According to Gruden, the injury is nothing serious, but it has been enough to convince the Bucs to leave him out of practice.
“He’ll be back tomorrow,” said Gruden. “He’ll be back tomorrow. It’s just a strain. It’s taken a couple of days to get well. He’ll be back on the field tomorrow.”
Although he says he’s not concerned about Petitgout’s back strain, Gruden does realize the value of getting Tampa Bay’s starting left tackle back out on the football field. He’s confident that will happen on Saturday.
“I think anytime you miss practice, you miss practice and you lose out on an opportunity to get better,” Gruden said. “Luke has played a long time, and I’m not going to elaborate on it any further. We’re not concerned. He’ll be back on the field tomorrow. It’s unfortunate that he’s missed three or four days because he’s a leader on our offensive football team. He’ll be back tomorrow with pads, ready to go.”
If Friday afternoon is any indication, Petitgout likely will return to action on Saturday morning. He saw a limited amount of work on Friday afternoon during crowd noise drills.
The Bucs signed Petitgout, who has had back and knee injuries in the past, to a three-year, $15 million contract after he was released by the New York Giants earlier this offseason.
Their plan at that time was to have Petitgout anchor the left side of the line and protect the blind side of quarterback Jeff Garcia. Gruden is still confident that Petitgout can do that and more for the Bucs this season.
“He’s a good left tackle in the NFL,” said Gruden. “I heard some comments from [New York’s] general manager. I don’t know him. All I know is he started there and played darn good football. He’s a guy who we are counting on to give us some good, solid play on the left side and leadership and consistency. He’ll give us that and he’ll be back tomorrow, and I think you’ll see that.”
In other injury-related news, Bucs rookie defensive end Gaines Adams returned to practice after missing some time with a triceps strain.
While Adams participated in Friday morning’s practice, he was limited during the two-hour workout.
“Yes, he practiced a few periods,” said Gruden. “He was somewhat limited, but he and [defensive lineman] Ellis Wyms returned to practice today, and they’ll pick up reps and become more and more involved hopefully tomorrow. They did return today.”
SEVERAL PLAYERS HELD OUT OF AFTERNOON PRACTICE As part of their regular training camp practice regimen, several Bucs players were held out of Friday afternoon's practice, including linebacker Derrick Brooks, fullback Mike Alstott, defensive tackle Ryan Sims, wide receiver Joey Galloway, cornerbacks Brian Kelly and Ronde Barber, defensive end Greg Spires, defensive lineman Kevin Carter, tight end Jerramy Stevens, center John Wade and guard Arron Sears.
BUCHANON MAKES DEBUT ON OFFENSE Just one day after Gruden suggested cornerback and special teams return specialist Phillip Buchanon might receive some playing time on the offensive side of the ball, that idea became a reality.
During an 11-on-11 session on Friday morning, Buchanon lined up as a wide receiver. He ran a hitch route and hauled in a pass from the quarterback for a short gain.
He was involved in the same play during Friday afternoon's practice.
Buchanon, who has scored seven touchdowns (four interception returns and three punt returns for scores) during his five-year NFL career, is a guy you want to give the ball to, according to Gruden.
Gruden has experimented with playing defensive players on offense side of the ball several times since he arrived in Tampa Bay in 2002.
This includes former Bucs defensive tackles Warren Sapp and Anthony McFarland playing tight end and cornerback Ronde Barber playing some wide receiver in training camp.
While the plan to play Barber on offense never really amounted to much, Gruden suggested Friday that Buchanon will indeed make an impact on the offensive side of the ball this season.
“He’s a guy that we’re going to work into our offensive plans a little bit,” said Gruden. “He’s a really athletic guy who can make plays. He’s fast and he’s got creativity after the catch, so there will be some things that we continue to look at with Phillip.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY Bucs head coach Jon Gruden on Family Day being held at training camp on Saturday:
“I always [look forward to Family Day]. You know, some of the players have kids who are my kids’ age, and I remember those days. It’s time for the wives, the families to get an afternoon, evening off, and get reacquainted. This is, at times, a lonely, dark profession, and I want these guys to reunite with their loved ones. We’re looking forward to that tomorrow.”
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