It’s been more than 24 hours since the injury bug bit Tampa Bay’s starting quarterback hard, but the Buccaneers don’t know much more today than they did yesterday evening regarding the extent of the left knee injury suffered by QB Brian Griese during Sunday’s game vs. the Miami Dolphins.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden suggested the team would get some concrete information regarding Griese’s knee injury as soon as the swelling subsided. Although the news may not be good, it could come as early as this week.
“I’m an optimistic guy, but I’m also very realistic,” Gruden said of Griese’s injury. “I just don’t want to stand up here and say something that is inaccurate when it’s involving a key player and an injury of this potential magnitude. I just sit and wait, that’s kind of how my life goes sometimes, but that’s the way it is.
“We should know something here in the next day or so, and then I’m sure he’ll get some other opinions, so it could be a couple of days. But we’re obviously very concerned, and we should be.”
Griese, who had completed 12-of-16 for 120 yards and threw one touchdown on Sunday, was well on to his way to having a strong performance against the Miami Dolphins when disaster struck near the end of the second quarter when Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas fell forward into Griese’s left knee, which caused the veteran signal caller to fall to the ground in pain.
“I’ve had some conversations with him,” Gruden said of Griese. “Obviously, he’s very disappointed. He played great yesterday. He’s helped us to a 5-1 record. He’s distraught, he’s nervous, he’s uptight about this, as he should be, and we’ll expect that. He’s put a lot into this. We’re just hoping he can come through this better than maybe we anticipate.”
Although Griese turned away a cart and limped off the field under his own power, Gruden suggested the severe knee injury could render his starting quarterback unavailable for the rest of the season.
“It could be a few weeks, it could be the end of the season,” Gruden said. We don’t know for sure. I’ll just sit here and wait until I’m told the extent of this injury.”
In the meantime, the Bucs will spend their bye week preparing third-year QB Chris Simms to start in two weeks vs. the San Francisco 49ers.
“We will begin to prepare for Chris Simms and Luke McCown, and at the same time we’ve got to begin a contingency plan that might involve another quarterback,” said Gruden.
The Bucs are $250,000 under the NFL-mandated salary cap, which could make it difficult for the team to sign a veteran quarterback, especially at this point in the season since most quality signal callers have already secured roster spots with other teams .
“Well, you’ve got to be realistic,” Gruden said of Tampa Bay’s search for a quarterback. “We’ll look hard. We’ll entertain any scenario that can possibly help us. Once again, the salary cap is an issue. I don’t want to say anything else until we get the results of Brian Griese’s MRIs.”
Despite the fact that Simms has only played in six career games (two starts), the Bucs appear to be comfortable having the 2003 third-round draft pick, who completed 6-of-10 passes for 69 yards vs. the Dolphins, lead their offense.
“Certainly the offense will become different. You got a left-handed quarterback with different skills and different traits,” said Gruden.
“(Chris) was different yesterday. He did some good things. He made some key audibles, found his complementary receivers a couple of times, and showed good poise. He’s matured a lot in this system. I believe that. We’ve got to prove that. That’s what we’ll begin to do today.”
MORE INJURY UPDATES Griese isn’t the only player banged up heading into Tampa Bay’s bye week.
“We’ve got a number of players who need this bye week to take advantage of it,” said Gruden. “We’ve got some bumps and bruises, as you’d expect. We just have to get some guys well. But we’ll huddle together today and tomorrow and regroup a little bit when we get further information and go on from there.”
Starting free safety Dexter Jackson injured his hamstring during the second half of Sunday’s game and did not return. Although the extent of the injury has not yet been determined, Jackson will likely have a long-term absence.
“It’s a hamstring injury and that one there could be a few weeks,” Gruden said. “He’s very tight right now. So that one could be a few weeks. It looks like Dexter Will be out for some time.”
Bucs strong safety Jermaine Phillips, who has missed two straight games with a thumb injury, should be ready to return to action in time for the Bucs’ next regular season game.
Should Jackson miss a significant amount of time, second-year S Will Allen, who returned a fumble 33 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter of Sunday’s game, will start in his place.
“We felt good about his progress late last season,” Gruden said of Allen. “I think (defensive backs coach) Mike Tomlin deserves a lot of credit. He’s been known to develop young players before. (Kalvin) Pearson and Will Allen both played, I thought, very well yesterday. We think Will Allen has a chance to really be a truly great player. He’s very fast, explosive. He loves the game. He’s got a knack. He’s got an instinct that really helps him in this style of defense.”
Gruden said Monday that rookie running back Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, who has missed two straight contests with a lingering foot injury, will likely rest this week and return to action the Wednesday before the Bucs-49ers game.
“He needs this time to get well,” Gruden said of Williams, who has rushed for 447 yards and two touchdowns. “You could make an argument he could have been able to go yesterday and be about 75 or 80 percent. Take a shot in the foot to try and ease the pain. And have a setback in terms of his rehab. We’re anxious to get back a ‘Cadillac.’ A 2005, whatever they are called. I don’t know what the model is. We want to get him back full speed, looking sharp. We just don’t want any setbacks. This is an injury that we’ve done the right thing with. We’re going to see it through. Hopefully, after this week, he can resume practice, and (go) full speed on Wednesday. That’s our goal. Next Wednesday.”
Tampa Bay middle linebacker Shelton Quarles injured his back on the first defensive play of the game on Sunday, but he returned to action and notched nine tackles vs. Miami. According to Gruden, Quarles is “sore” but will continue to play an integral role in Tampa Bay’s top-ranked defense.
“We think he’s a key to our defense,” Gruden said of Quarles. “He plays every down. He plays in the nickel. He plays in the base. He’s a sideline-to-sideline guy. We drafted Barrett Ruud, we need linebackers. We need depth at that position. We had a season go by where Shelton Quarles didn’t play. That’s a very valuable position on our defense and we’re fortunate to have a guy like this, not only the athlete, the football player, but the man that he is. He’ll play hurt. He’ll practice hurt. He’s a tireless worker, class act. Barrett Ruud, for him to ever get on the field in place of Shelton Quarles, he’s got a lot of work to do.”
BUCS ENTER BYE WEEK WITH 5-1 RECORD Despite starting the season with a 5-1 record, Tampa Bay’s best start since 2002, the Bucs aren’t overlooking the fact that they have a lot of room for improvement both in the infirmary room and on the football field.
“I don’t have any feelings right now other than concern for our quarterback, excitement for the hard work we’ve put forth and the realization of how much work needs to be done for us to win another game,” Gruden said when asked how he felt about Tampa Bay’s 5-1 record.
Tampa Bay has compiled its 5-1 record vs. opponents with a combined record of 11-21. It’s remaining seven regular season opponents have a combined record of 22-20.
So, how else will the Bucs use the bye week to their advantage?
“Well, we do a lot of self-scouting during the season as we quickly gather our game plans and take a good look at what we’ve done and what we want to do and we try to combine the two,” said Gruden. “This week we will take a look at the (tackle) Chris Colmer’s of the world, (defensive tackle) Anthony Bryant, some of our young players. We’ll try to get them game-ready. It’s just a matter of time before opportunity knocks for some of these guys. We’ve proven that. We’ll try to develop some things maybe that aren’t so good that we need to improve upon. At the same time, we’d like to get Chris Simms and Luke McCown some reps in preparation for the 49er game.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Gruden on if it’s important to find a quarterback, if necessary, who’s familiar with the Bucs’ offense:
“We’re looking for a good player. My wife is familiar with our system. “Yeah, (she doesn’t throw) very well. We’re not interested, Cindy.”
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