Lovie Smith does not think the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a quarterback controversy, and in the short term they may not even have much of decision to make.
The makings of a situation, if not a controversy, at quarterback for the Buccaneers have been in place since opening-day starter Josh McCown suffered a thumb injury in Atlanta in Week Three. He has missed the three games since, and second-year man Mike Glennon – the starter for 13 games last season – has played well in his place. While McCown was still unable to throw a football, that situation remained in the background, nothing more than a think-piece for those looking a bit farther down the line.
McCown returned to practice this week,
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albeit in a limited fashion, and thus that situation came closer to being a reality. At some point, when both quarterbacks are fully ready to start a game, then there will be a decision to be made, even if one of the options is merely staying with the status quo. However, the Bucs might not yet be quite to that point yet. On Thursday, Head Coach Lovie Smith said the first questioned that had to be answered was whether or not McCown was even ready to regain an active spot on game day yet. While he has been recovering from his injury, Mike Kafka has served as Glennon's game-day backup.
"To me that's the first decision: If Josh had to play, can he play?" said Smith on Thursday after practice. "And that's what we're working through with practice this week, to see exactly where he is. We're trying different things on the practice field and we're getting closer to being able to make those decisions. But that's the first decision we have to make."
The Buccaneers signed McCown in March after his strong season with the Chicago Bears in 2013 and quickly annointed him as the starter for the 2014 season. However, Smith also made a point of referring to Glennon as Tampa Bay's "quarterback of the future" after the 2014 NFL Draft had passes. That future has come a little earlier than expected – at the very least for part of this season – and the end result may be that the Buccaneers feel even better about their quarterback position overall by midseason than they did during the spring.
"Mike Glennon's been playing good football," said Smith. Josh went down with an injury. We're bringing Josh back from his injury; that's a good sign, to get him back out there. But he's had two practices since then, so we're making progress. That's where we are. I'm excited about getting our two quarterbacks back out there; that's a good thing for us. It's a lot better situation for us. Things could take care of themselves. If I'm a starter right now and I'm getting reps, I have to play at a certain level or the next guy gets an opportunity. That's how it is with all positions. So that's where we are with the quarterback position."
McCown was one of six Buccaneers who were limited in practice on Thursday, a list that also includes WR Vincent Jackson (ribs) and free safety Dashon Goldson (ankle). Jackson has battled through a couple injuries to be on the field every Sunday this season, but Goldson is trying to return after a two-game absence and a helpful bye week.
"We've missed him," said Smith of Goldson. "Before the injury, he was doing some good things [even after] missing all of the offseason. He was behind a little bit but he's back now. Hopefully he'll be good to go. All of these guys should help us – Gerald [McCoy] one more week with his hand healing up; Michael Johnson, you talk about our good players, we need all of them to elevate their game, simple as that. And I see them working to do that."
Second-year linebacker Brandon Magee was the only Buccaneer who did not practice at all on Thursday. The Bucs' entire official injury report can be found here.* Orie Lemon began Week Eight on the Kansas City Chiefs' practice squad but he may end up playing against the Vikings in Tampa by Sunday.
Lemon, a third-year linebacker out of Oklahoma State, had just signed with the Chiefs last week, but he got a better opportunity on Thursday when the Buccaneers came calling. Concerned about depth at linebacker and on special teams after Magee suffered a knee injury in practice on Wednesday, the Buccaneers offered Lemon a spot on the active roster. They happened to have one available after Da'Quan Bowers was placed on the reserve/suspended by commissioner list.
This isn't the first time Lemon has been given that exact kind of promotion. Last year, he was working on the Arizona Cardinals' practice squad when the Dallas Cowboys signed him to their active roster in November, and he ended up playing in three games for Dallas. He had also played five games for the Cowboys in 2012 after spending all of his 2011 rookie season and the first two weeks of 2012 on Dallas' practice squad.
After those two seasons in Dallas, the 6-1, 235-pound Lemon went to Kansas City in 2013, going to camp with the Chiefs but getting his waivers at the end of the preseason and ending up in Arizona. In all, he has played in eight games and contributed three tackles and a fumble recovery, as well as a pair of stops on special teams.
Those specific travels helped Orie be attractive to the Buccaneers when they were in need of some help. Playing in Dallas has exposed him to a defensive system that is similar to what Tampa Bay is running under Lovie Smith. In addition, he worked with current Buccaneers Special Teams Coordinator Kevin O'Dea while both were in Kansas City.**
- Vincent Jackson does not believe there is a trade pending to send him out of Tampa before the deadline, but he has obviously heard his name mentioned in rumors in the past week. It didn't bother him, nor did it represent something he was hoping would happen.**
"In this business, those kinds of things get talked about quite often," said Jackson, who leads the Buccaneer with 25 catches for 344 yards and two touchdowns. "Each and every year there's going to be guys that are moved around to different teams. I'm not surprised by it. I appreciate, I guess, the [other] teams' interest, but I'm happy here in Tampa. I've heard nothing here that would suggest that I'm going anywhere, so I'm just going to let that pass on and keep doing my job."
In every sport, a midseason trade for a star-caliber player usually means that player is heading to a team in strong playoff contention. Jackson wants very much to play for a contender, but he doesn't think he has to leave Tampa to do so.
"That's exactly what I want to do here," he said. "Bringing Lovie in and the staff that he's brought, his mentality and his goals are aligned with mine and I think a lot of guys in this locker room. I hope for us to start the tradition here of winning football in Tampa Bay. I hope to stay in this uniform and this jersey and help bring that here."
Check out photos of the Buccaneers' current roster.