QB Brian Griese completed 12 of 16 passes against Miami before sustaining a left knee injury in the second quarter
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Brian Griese has an injured left knee but, as of Monday morning, the team was still not sure how extensive the damage is or how much of the 2005 season Griese will miss.
Griese and Head Coach Jon Gruden are awaiting the results of several examinations and are not eager to guess at an outcome. Still, it's obvious that a significant absence is one of the possibilities.
"It could be a few weeks, it could be the end of the season," said Gruden. "We don't know for sure. 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 was hurt near the end of one of his better halves of football this season. In leading the Bucs to a 10-3 lead over the Dolphins, he had completed 12 of his first 15 throws for 120 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. On his 16th throw, however, he sustained the injury when linebacker Zach Thomas rolled onto his planted left leg and took Griese down at an awkward angle. Griese walked off the field under his own power but obviously in pain. After the game, Griese had to face uncertainty about his status for the rest of the season.
"Obviously, he's very disappointed," said Gruden. "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."
Griese was replaced by third-year quarterback Chris Simms, who would remain the starter if Griese misses any games. The Bucs have a bye this week and will next play in San Francisco on October 30.
Simms completed six of 10 passes for 69 yards during the second half, led two scoring drives in the third quarter and did not attempt a single pass in the fourth quarter after the Bucs built a three-touchdown lead. He certainly knows how Griese feels, having suffered a shoulder injury last October in his first start for the team. Griese replaced Simms at the end of the first quarter in that game at New Orleans and soon gained a firm grip on the starting job.
The reversed similarities of the current situation are obvious to Simms, but his first hope is for his teammate's health.
"If I do get my opportunity, I've got to do the best I can with it," said Simms. "But hopefully Brian will be okay and he'll be ready to go. It's a heartbreaking way to come out of a game have to deal with an injury now."
It certainly wouldn't be surprising to see Griese miss at least the next game. If his absence is going to be longer than that, the Bucs may have to make an addition at the quarterback position behind Simms and second-year player Luke McCown. Though the Bucs won't sign anyone until it's necessary, they obviously have begun scouring the free agent list in case it is needed.
"Right now it's a twisted knee, a sprained knee; whether it's more serious than that, we'll find out," said Gruden of Griese. "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."
Obviously, the most attractive candidates are already employed by other teams. Gruden said the team would be looking for a good player, not necessarily one that is intimately familiar with the Bucs' offense.
"You've got to be realistic," he said. "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."
Slim at Safety
Whether or not the bye week proves relevant to Griese's situation, it definitely comes at a good time for the team overall. The injury list grew longer on Sunday and two weeks of rest should restore several thin areas on the depth chart.
"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. We'll huddle together today and tomorrow and regroup a little bit when we get further information and go on from there."
One position that will be under scrutiny under these two weeks is safety, where the Bucs finished the Miami game without either of their opening-day starters. Usual strong safety Jermaine Phillips was inactive for a second straight week due to a thumb ailment, and free safety Dexter Jackson went down just after halftime with a hamstring injury. Gruden said he expects to get Phillips back for the San Francisco game but Jackson's status seems less certain.
"That one there could be a few weeks; he's very tight right now," said Gruden. "It looks like Dexter will be out for some time."