Although he doesn’t want to think about it, Tampa Bay quarterback Chris Simms may get cut prior to the start of the 2007 season as a result of falling to fourth on the depth chart in training camp as he struggles to return to form after having his spleen removed about 11 months ago. Simms told Pewter Report that if he gets released by the Buccaneers in the coming weeks he is prepared to sit out the 2007 season to get fully healthy and back to being the quarterback he used to be.
“I’ll do whatever I have to do,” Simms said. “If I have to sit out a year, I’m totally prepared for it. I really am. I have a long, long career in front of me.
“If – and I hope that doesn’t happen, trust me – but if it does happen, I’m not going to go anywhere else until I feel like I am ready to play again and to feel like the old Chris Simms again.”
With Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden likely needing a winning season to avoid being fired, Simms, who has struggled mightily with his accuracy and velocity in training camp, may not be of much help to the team this year. Jeff Garcia is entrenched as the starter and Luke McCown appears poised to win the backup job with Bruce Gradkowski, who started 11 games as a rookie in 2006, in line to win the third-string spot.
All three of those quarterbacks played in last Friday’s 13-10 preseason opener win against New England while Simms, who was 0-3 as a starter in 2006 before losing his spleen following the Carolina Panthers game in Week 3 last year, didn’t see any action due to poor performance in practice.
“It was very difficult,” Simms said about missing the Bucs’ preseason opener against New England. “This is a difficult time because I know I’m not quite back to my old self. I’ve just got to keep plugging away and it’s only a matter of time.”
Simms realizes that the odds are stacked against him when it comes to making the 2007 version of the Buccaneers because of his positioning on the depth chart. The official depth chart, which was released by the team last week, showed Simms as the third-string quarterback. But in virtually every practice he has been getting fourth-string reps and is often serving as the scout-team quarterback. That's quite a fall from grace considering he went 5-1 in the NFC South as Tampa Bay's starting quarterback in 2005 and leading the Bucs to a Wild Card playoff berth.
“I’m not really worried about it,” Simms said about possibly being released by the Bucs. “I’ve got to make sure I’m right first. That’s all I’m really worried about – just getting my body healed and feeling like I did before the injury. I’m just going to worry about that and continue to work hard and just let everything else fall where it may.”
When Simms signed a two-year contract extension last December to avoid free agency in 2007, neither he nor the team had any idea that he wouldn’t be 100 percent at the start of training camp. But that is the reality of the situation as he has yet to shake the bad mechanics he has developed while trying to work his way back from his splenectomy.
“No, I didn’t think [it would be this way] at all,” Simms said. “It’s an injury that not a whole lot of people have had. It’s a difficult one to rehabilitate. Like I’ve been saying, an ACL injury takes 12 months. I had the middle of my body cut open. I think sometimes I have to remember that it was a serious injury and it might take a little time.
“As far as the injury that I had, there’s only been one player in the history of NFL who has had it. I don’t know who it was. It was somebody in the 1970s and that’s the only one I ever heard of – and he wasn’t a quarterback. That’s a whole different game in itself. To be a good thrower, you have to use your whole torso.”
Simms admits that he beat himself up mentally early in camp when a great deal of his passes came out of his hand wobbly and without much velocity. Many of Simms’ errant throws have been picked off, too.
“It’s tough. This is a tough pill to swallow,” Simms said. “But you know what? I worked too hard and when I came out here to camp and still didn’t feel right. I was really hard on myself the first few days, but then I had to be real honest with myself. I just don’t feel right. It’s not in my head. It’s nothing like that. Something is just off with the way I throw the ball. It’s made me take a step back and say, ‘Let me get right first. Let me get right before I start really criticizing myself too much.’”
If the Bucs release Simms, which is a distinct possibility given his struggles during training camp, he may take 2007 off to get himself right rather than sign with another team.
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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org