QB Brian Griese needs his right foot to recover to the point where he can plant and push off of it
It appears as if time will be the deciding factor on whether the Tampa Bay Buccaneers start Brian Griese or Chris Simms at quarterback in the 2004 season finale.
Griese was slated to start, as he has the past 10 games, but a foot sprain has kept him out of most of practice this week. He has made gradual progress from Wednesday through Friday, taking a few more snaps each afternoon, but not enough to know for certain that he can suit up against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
Thus, Head Coach Jon Gruden said on Friday that his starter under center would be a game day decision.
That is not surprising, given the nature of Griese's injury. The seventh-year veteran has proved he can play through pain this season, but this ailment, sprained ligaments on the bottom of his right foot, could significantly affect his performance. A right-hander, Griese uses that foot to stop his drop-back and get power on his throws.
"The foot injury is something new," said Griese, who has battled through hip and shoulder strains in the last month. "It's been a little bit hard for me to plant and push off with that foot, so I need to get that back."
The decision will probably come a few hours before Sunday's kickoff in Phoenix, scheduled for 4:05 p.m. ET. Teams must announce their inactives 90 minutes before game-time, and if Griese is unable to start he would likely be named the inactive third quarterback, with Simms starting and Brad Johnson serving as the active reserve.
Simms last played in a game on Oct. 10, when he was named the starter over Johnson only to have his first career start end in injury after one quarter of action. Simms completed five of eight passes for 68 yards in that game and led the team to a field goal on its opening possession before suffering a sprained left (throwing) shoulder on a sack by DE Will Smith.
Simms' most extensive regular-season action actually came in Week Two against Seattle. He played more than half of that game and completed 21 of 32 passes for 175 yards and one interception.
It took the second-year passer about a month to fully recover from his shoulder sprain, but he has seen plenty of work on the practice field since. On several occasions, Griese has been limited in practice early in the week due to various aches and pains and Simms has run with the first-team offense.
Simms is not worried about being rusty.
"I don't think that would be a problem," he said. "If I got a good week of practice underneath me and got to take these reps like I'm doing [this week], I should be okay."
Twenty more minutes and he would have made it through the season unscathed.
Instead, tight end Dave Moore pulled his left hamstring near the end of Friday's practice, the last full-speed workout of the year for the Buccaneers. He has been added to the injury report and is considered questionable to play.
Moore has three receptions for 17 yards this season, including a 10-yarder last Sunday against Carolina, but has been most active as the team's long-snapper. Moore has handled all of the team's snaps for punts and placekicks this season, which means the Bucs may need a replacement for that job on Sunday.
The leading candidate would be fellow tight end Ken Dilger, who is listed second to Moore on the depth chart at that spot and works on the skill frequently in practice. The new player signed to the team's practice squad on Thursday, guard Joe Iorio, is also a long-snapper, but the team would have to make a roster move to get Iorio active if they wanted to put him in the mix.
Moore has played in 191 career games, including 161 as a Buccaneer (he played one game with Miami as a rookie in 1992 and spent the 2002-03 seasons in Buffalo). Only tackle Paul Gruber (183) and safety John Lynch (164) have played in more games as a Buccaneer. Moore also ranks 13th and eight, respectively, in receptions (182) and touchdowns (24) as a Buccaneer.
Davis Eager for '05
Early in the week, it appeared as if the Bucs would have question marks at both quarterback and left tackle. On Monday, starting left tackle Derrick Deese was thought to be questionable for the season finale due to a foot sprain.
Deese, however, recovered quickly enough to avoid the midweek injury report altogether and practice without issue. Thus, it appears as if Deese will make his 16th start of the season on Sunday.
That would mean no NFL debut for first-year man Anthony Davis, Deese's backup. Davis had an impressive preseason, playing extensively while Deese recovered from August foot surgery. The former Virginia Tech standout hasn't regressed in the four months since; he simply hasn't been needed as Deese has remained relatively healthy.
Davis, instead, has made his progress on the practice field.
"He's obviously done well," said Gruden. "It's hard for anyone to believe that because he hasn't been active nor played. But he's got promise, as does Jeb Terry and Will Allen and some of these youngsters. He's got a future, and he has made progress."
Davis plans to start on that futre as soon as possible. He considers the 2005 offseason the pivotal point in his professional career and plans to attack it aggressively.
"It's tremendously big," said the 6-4, 329-pound Davis. "Last year, I stayed home for two months. I'm coming back in about a couple weeks and staying here the whole time, just doing what I can do to get on the field.
"I never fell off. I'm still the same guy that they commented on in the preseason. I'll do anything to get better."