After staying silent for the majority of the offseason, Bucs quarterback Chris Simms, who has been skipping Tampa Bay's voluntary workouts, has started to speak out about his feelings towards the Buccaneer organization, and his desire to have a fresh start with another team. Simms spoke with 620 WDAE on Tuesday morning and characterized his relationship with head coach Jon Gruden as strained.
"[It's strained from] the series of events that occurred from the start of training camp to really the very end of the season," said Simms. "It is just like I said, I was not pleased with the way [Coach Gruden] treated me. That goes from both angles. I understand this business of football, and how things are done, and how it can be a rough business. They treated me badly even on the business side of football goes, and the personal side — I've felt I've received a lot of low blows throughout the year. You know, it definitely hurt the relationship."
Simms is under contract with the Buccaneers for the 2008 season. Despite suffering a serious spleen injury and ending the 2006 season on injured reserve, the Bucs signed Simms to a two-year contract extension just before the '06 season came to an end. Simms received a $3 million dollar signing bonus with the two-year extension and earned a base salary of $2 million in 2007. The contract Simms signed is essentially the same contract that was signed by starting quarterback Jeff Garcia in free agency of March 2007.
Gruden did not speak to the media after Tuesday's organized team activity. Simms discussed why he decided to speak out about his status at this time.
"Yeah, I just felt like it was time," Simms told WDAE 620. "I tried. I went this whole offseason, if you guys remember I didn't talk to anybody throughout the season last year, too. I didn't want to distract from the team or anything like that, but it's getting towards the end of OTAs and mini-camps. I was quiet all through the offseason just hoping I'll be good and do the company thing and hopefully this will work out. It doesn't seem to be furthering itself any more so it was time I did something."
At the time of the 2008 NFL Draft, there were rumors that teams were talking to the Bucs about trading for Simms. Some media outlets reported that Tampa Bay was offered a sixth- or seventh-round pick for him. Pewter Report learned through league sources shortly after the draft that the Bucs did not receive any trade offers for Simms.
"You know, you hear things like that. You definitely do," said Simms about the trade rumors. " I think between myself and my dad knowing lot of people around the NFL. I did hear teams were interested, but nothing concrete or anything along that nature yet."
Simms wants to be released or traded due to the fact that he believes he does not have a future in Tampa Bay with quarterbacks Jeff Garcia, Brian Griese, Luke McCown and Josh Johnson on the team's roster.
In the interview with 620 WDAE, Simms was asked if Gruden and the Bucs treated him unfairly before or after he suffered a spleen injury in Sept. of 2006 that led to him ending the '06 season on injured reserve and eventually landing there again in 2007.
"Well, I think there's a little bit, that's part of it," said Simms. "It's kind of like I was saying before. I've always been extremely loyal and been one of the hardest working guys on the team. [Coach Gruden] definitely has, I guess you could say, dragged my name through the dirt a few times. I think my past, and the credibility of you guys knowing me, has shown that I'm not one to speak out or do anything that I'm doing right now. But they are kind of doing what they have to do business wise.
"I have to look out for my best interests to a degree, too, and just at least let you guys, and the media, and the fans of Tampa know this is the truth and this why I haven't been at OTAs or anything else. I'm not holding out for extra money or anything of that nature. I have a true argument as far as the way I was treated as a football player and as a human being."
One of Simms' friends on the team is wide receiver Michael Clayton. After Tuesday's OTA, Clayton spoke with the media regarding Simms' situation. Some questioned Clayton whether Simms' treatment will impact how other players perceive their status with the Buccaneers.
"No. You stay focused," said Clayton. "We understand as football players that this is a business. We all know that coming into the league. The most important thing right now is that everybody keeps a level head right now on this team and work hard to win a championship. I don't really think there will be anything that will come between the bond that we have because we understand the business. All you can do is handle your own self, and Chris has to handle it the way he knows how, but we wish him the best.
"You definitely just let it go. As players, you just have to focus on your job and your role and let nothing deter the chemistry of this team and continue to work hard."
Simms said that if the team did not trade or release him, he would report to training camp with the Buccaneers on July 25 and possibily even the team's three-day mandatory mini-camp, which is scheduled for next week.
"Yeah, there's no doubt about it," said Simms. "If that's the case then I'll be there during training camp and ready to go and ready to compete.
"It would not be [an easy situation]. It definitely would not be a situation that I would not want to be in, and I don't know if they're going to want to deal with that either. You know that I'm not going to hold back as far as that I'm not happy being there and playing for the Bucs right now. That's a hard thing to say because I love Tampa and it's an awesome sports town, and they love the Bucs. I've told you guys in the past, I'm old school I want to play for the same team my whole life, but if they're willing to keep me on this team and come training camp they want to deal with that media circus everyday then go ahead."
Clayton was asked if he understands Simms' frustration.
"Definitely," said Clayton. "On every team as players, our job is to work hard and do our part. We have to stay away from injury and you have to do your part to stay healthy the whole year. All we can do is come out and give 100 percent effort and let whatever happens, happen."
While Simms is frustrated and claims that Gruden did not treat him fairly, the left-handed signal caller wouldn't go as far as saying the Bucs had lied to him.
"I don't know if I would say that I've been lied to," said Simms. "Like I was saying it was a tough injury. I don't think there were a whole lot of people around the country medical wise that you know have a whole lot of knowledge on this injury, especially for somebody that's a thrower. For a thrower the core, the abdominal cavity, is so important for a thrower.
"Basically, just think of it this way, I try to tell people all the time: I'm a lefty so I step with my right foot. That connection between my left arm and my right hip is extremely, extremely important. It basically got cut off. It's taken awhile for it all to come back and get all the muscles and everything working together and get back to where I was before I got injured."
Nearly one year ago, Simms participated in Tampa Bay's OTAs and said he was 100 percent healthy in a interview with Pewter Report.
“It was somewhere around the end of December before I threw a football again, so I went close to three months without throwing. I am 100 percent healthy, but I’m not where I want to be from a throwing standpoint," Simms said on June 12, 2007. "It’s not that I feel so bad throwing the football right now, but I have to get my body used to it. You always hear a lot about quarterbacks and timing, and for whatever reason that seems to be taking me more time to get back than anything else. But I think it’s just like anything else. Until OTAs started, I hadn’t been out here practicing since late September. That’s a long time. That’s definitely the longest period of time I’ve ever gone without throwing a football or practicing. It’s frustrating. It really is, and on a lot of levels, because not only was my abdomen tight from the injury and surgery, but my arm was tight as well because I hadn’t thrown a football in so long.”
But Simms continued to struggle throwing the ball in training camp last year. Both he and the team insisted the former third-round draft pick was healthy and just rusty.
Still, Simms took issue with the organization saying that he was healthy last training camp before eventually placing him on injured reserve during the regular season due to the lingering effects of the spleen injury.
"Well, it was a tricky time," said Simms. "Hey, you know there's so many people in that organization that I love, and treated me great. I don't want to lose fact of that. The Glazer family treated me great. All the medical staff, all of them have treated me great through the years, and to their credit the medical staff especially. It was a tough injury.
"It was an injury that's not known in the NFL and you know it took me awhile to figure out what the hell was wrong with me. It was just tough from the standpoint that I understand they where, at least I think they were trying to tell people that I was healthy. Either so they could cut me and not be liable, or they could trade me, but what people don't realize is, and I told [general manager] Bruce Allen this after I was put on IR, if I got cut last year I would've gone nowhere to play."
Recently, the Buccaneers have received some public criticism. Garcia has expressed his frustration with the talks of his contract extension, and there is the belief that running back Earnest Graham is avoiding voluntary team practices due to being unhappy with his contract. Clayton was questioned if there is a negative image of the team having too many disgruntled players.
"No. I wouldn't say that that's an image of this team," said Clayton. "The core and the foundation of this team were built on and we still have some of those guys here and they definitely set the example. What people may say is not always what it is in between the locker room. Like I said, if we keep a level head and continue to do our jobs, look forward to a hell of a training camp and move on from there."
Simms says that he is ready to move on from the Buccaneers and contribute to another NFL team.
"I'm doing great. I really am. I feel 100 percent again and you know I have to say that's one thing in my life that I'm extremely happy about right now just knowing that I'm back ready to go and will be playing football again this year," said Simms.
If he gets his wish and is released or traded, Clayton wishes Simms nothing but the best.
"He's a guy who works hard and he deserves something positive to happen to him," said Clayton. "We just look at him and wish him well and we just move on. He's always going to be a friend of a lot of guys on this team and he has a bright future."
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