After being placed on injured reserve on Oct. 10, Bucs quarterback Chris Simms has been somewhat of a ghost at One Buccaneer Place this season. Even though he wasn't able to practice with the team, he was seen in the weight room at times during the season trying to get himself back to normal. However, he hadn't spoken with the media since going on IR until Monday.
With several players coming in and out of the locker room, Simms was spotted in the hallway and answered questions about his health and his feelings on next season.
"I'm doing good. A lot better and finally feeling like myself again," Simms said. "So I'm just excited for the new year to come and personally just glad that I'm feeling better and will be ready to go next year."
Simms came into the 2007 campaign as a mystery after missing most of the 2006 season with a spleen injury. It was thought that Simms would be healthy heading into training camp, but struggled noticeably in the OTAs and mini-camp during the off-season. His struggles continued in training camp as it was clear that he hadn't fully healed from his injury.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden had to answer daily questions on why Simms didn't look good and what Tampa Bay was going to do if he couldn't regain his throwing ability. Simms never seemed to be able to throw the ball with any accuracy or the deep pass routes, which was his specialty.
About two months ago, Simms saw a few doctors that dealt specifically with his injury and found out that the muscles surrounding the scar on his abdomen weren't working as they should have been. They were basically dead and were of no use for Simms, which isn't good for a quarterback who needs the power in his abdomen to throw the ball.
"Basically just found out that it's pretty common with tramadic surgeries kind of like I had. I just had a lot of muscles that were shut off around the scar," Simms said. "I guess it's pretty common that when you have a bad scar like that the body just knows to shut off the muscles to protect the scar. That's why I lost power and just didn't feel like myself throwing the ball. I had muscles that weren't doing anything just sitting there hanging out."
So how did Simms re-stimulate those muscles?
"It's actually real basic exercises just to basically stimulate those muscles and to get them firing again," Simms said. "It's not like they weren't capable of working, but the way it was explained to me was I probably started off with steps three, four and five without doing steps one and two. I just had to get my body doing some functional exercises to get it back going."
Simms blames himself more than anything for not realizing that something was seriously wrong, instead trying to fight through the injury. He understands, however, that he can't turn back time and must look forward not behind.
"Yeah it is frustrating, but it is what it is. I get mad at myself more than anything because me being hard-headed and trying to be somewhat old school where I felt I just needed to keep going out there and practicing and working and I will get better and better," Simms said. "All that time I really just wasted because I was ignorant to the whole situation just thinking that I was an athlete and could overcome it because I'm young and healthy."
Simms has been working out at least five days a week for the past two months and is starting to feel like himself again. He has thrown the ball to anyone that will run a route for him.
"I did the training here [at One Buc Place] and the people I saw gave me some exercises and things I need to do to rejuvenate the muscles," Simms said. "I just tried to get whoever I could around the team to catch some balls for me. I've had some of equipment guys catch balls for me. Literally anybody that has a pair of hands I've tried to get out there and catch for me."
He believes that he will be ready to compete for a spot in the quarterback rotation next season and doesn't envision any setbacks. He also doesn't hold any hard feelings toward Gruden for placing him on IR, realizing that it was the best thing for the team.
As far as how Simms will feel when OTAs begin in the off-season?
"I expect to be at 100 percent. No question in my mind. The old Chris Simms," Simms said.
Despite not playing one down during the regular season, Simms did keep track of the Bucs and their run to the playoffs. Even though Tampa Bay fell in the first round of the postseason, he was impressed with the resilient nature of this year's team.
"It just shows the resiliency of some of the guys we have in this locker room in even on the coaching staff. Great leaders – Ronde Barber, Derrick Brooks, Mike Alstott – we have guys that have been through a lot of battles and they were able to keep everybody's head focused in the right direction during the off-season last year," Simms said. "I think a lot of guys realized that in this day and age, your record from last year doesn't mean a thing anymore. You are always a few plays away from being a 5-10 team or a 10-6 team, whatever it is. We just had the character in the locker room to work through and stay positive and the guys played great this year."
Number two wants to remain in Tampa Bay for 2008 and get the opportunity to compete for a starting position at quarterback. Gruden was disappointed with what Simms had to go through this season and wants to see him bounce back next season.
"We hope so. It's been a very bizarre year in regards to his situation. It's a strange injury and there haven't been a lot of players who have had it. How long does it take to resume playing and how do you resume playing. All these things are hard to answer," Simms said. "In 2005 when we won the division we were excited about building our team around a young quarterback, Cadillac Williams and Dan Buenning. A lot of these guys were considered key components and we have sorely lacked all three of them. I don't know the answers to all these questions, but I can honestly say that we will sit down and evaluate them and go from there. He's a great kid and it tears me up to see him unable to compete because he loves the game and misses the guys."
Simms understands that it's not his decision whether he will be with Tampa Bay next year and doesn't know what the future may hold for the third round selection out of the University of Texas.
"We'll see what happens in the next few months," Simms said. "Whatever happens, happens – and you just kind of go with the flow from there."
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