Head Coach Jon Gruden wants more information on the health of his quarterbacks before setting a plan for the upcoming weekend
Brian Griese and Jeff Garcia completed 13 passes each on Sunday in Denver. Who throws the next official pass, against Carolina in six days, is yet to be determined.
Head Coach Jon Gruden deferred that decision until at least Wednesday, needing more definitive information on the health of Griese, who has started the last four games. Griese suffered shoulder and elbow injuries on his throwing arm in the third quarter Sunday when he was leveled by blitzing cornerback Champ Bailey.
Garcia, who started the 2008 season opener in New Orleans before giving way to Griese, finished the game and directed the Buccaneers' only touchdown drive of the day, a 90-yard march in the fourth quarter that ended with his seven-yard scoring pass to Ike Hilliard.
Gruden complimented the work of both quarterbacks on Sunday, but a comparison of the statistics may not be as relevant as the reports that come out of the training room in the coming days.
"We're going to address the quarterback situation once we get all the facts," said Gruden. "Obviously, health is going to be an issue. I thought Jeff did do some good things yesterday. His health has been an issue, and his return to health is also something that we're excited about. We'll evaluate [Griese] today and let you know on Wednesday."
"We feel like we have two veteran quarterbacks now that have played. Both guys can win for us. We will make that decision on Wednesday when we get all the facts. Right now we are concerned about Griese's arm and we are encouraged by Jeff Garcia's progress."
When Garcia was removed from the starting lineup before Week Two, Gruden indicated that the 2007 Pro Bowler was not performing up to his usual standards, either on game day or on the practice field. It was obvious to the coach that a string of injuries, and the long periods of inactivity the caused, had hampered the veteran's game.
At the time, Gruden also said that the team fully expected Garcia to regain his form, and predicted that the team would need all of its passers before the season was up. Apparently, Garcia has improved on the practice field over the last month.
"He's gotten better," said Gruden. "It's been difficult. Obviously he was a key part of our team last year, and he missed the entire training camp – not some of it, all of it, really. He's had the calf injury, he's had the ankle injury, the pinky injury and it's hurt him. Our observations of him on the practice field, we've seen more and more Jeff Garcia lately. I thought he went in there late in the game yesterday and moved around, made some creative plays that we're accustomed to seeing. That's good. I think he does feel better. I think he is ready to play and we'll address that on Wednesday."
Ruud Battling Knee Soreness
Without fully developed injury information yet, Gruden unofficially referred to Griese as "questionable" on Monday. He said the same thing of linebacker Barrett Ruud, who sat out a portion of the second half in Denver after sustaining a knee injury.
Ruud, however, said on Monday that he hopes to play next weekend against Carolina.
"It's a day-by-day thing, but I think I should be [able to play]," said the fourth-year linebacker. "It's sore. I'm sure it'll be sore for probably most of this week. But soreness I can deal with, it's the uncertainty that is tough. I think I should be fine."
Ruud jokingly referred to himself as a "non-athlete" because he hurt the knee without contact, just falling awkwardly. Of course, that's far from the truth. The athletic middle linebacker is emerging as a star at his position this year and is one of the Bucs' most important defenders. Ruud currently leads the team with 48 tackles, is tied for the team lead with two interceptions and has added one sack and three passes defensed.
Just last week, Ruud pointed to his overall good health as one of the reasons for his fast start to the 2008 season. Last year, in his first full season in the starting lineup, he had to deal with a couple nagging injuries, though he managed to stay on the field for every game except the meaningless season finale, in which mostly reserves played.
Ruud would prefer to stay away from injuries this year, obviously, but at least he has some experience playing in games while being limited on the practice field.
"I did some of that last year," he said. "I had a little bit of a knee thing last year and I had a few weeks where I didn't do a whole lot of practicing either. If that's the case, you've just got to get your mental reps and spend a little more time in the film room. Sometimes that's what you've got to do. Some of the older veterans, they'll practice Fridays only, so you've got to just do what you've got to do to get out there."
Ruud has a little extra motivation to get ready for the coming weekend: the opponent. The Buccaneers and Panthers have developed a rather heated rivalry, and next weekend's game will be a battle for first place. Ruud, who starred at Nebraska before the Bucs made him a second-round draft pick in 2005, likens the rivalry to something he experienced in the collegiate ranks.
"This is like Nebraska-Oklahoma on the pro level," he said. "It's Carolina, and I think it's the best rivalry we have. It's always a fun game."
Pat-Downs Resume at Raymond James Stadium
Fans planning to attend Sunday's Buccaneer game against Carolina should be aware that security pat-downs will once again be part of the procedure to enter the stadium.
Pursuant to NFL policy and to further enhance fan safety and comfort, pat-downs will resume for all Buccaneer home games beginning with this Sunday's game.
Consistent with all other NFL stadiums, all fans entering Raymond James Stadium for Buccaneers home games will be subject to pat-downs by security personnel before going through stadium gates. Gates will continue to open 90 minutes prior to kick-off.
Over the past few seasons, all NFL teams have successfully implemented the pat-down procedure as part of stadium security procedures. In addition, pat-downs at stadium gates have been a part of the Super Bowl security plan since 2002.