It may not be enough to get him onto the field Sunday against New England, but Monday's return to practice was an encouraging step forward for QB Jeff Garcia
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jeff Garcia has been through just about everything the NFL can throw at a player — grueling training camps, injuries and the unenviable task of looking for a new job in the offseason, just to name a few.
Thus, as worrisome as it might appear that Garcia has been absent from the practice field for the majority of the Bucs' 2008 training camp, the 10-year veteran is taking it all in stride.
After making his return to the practice field Monday afternoon, Garcia said that the preseason is a bit "overdone" at this point in his career and that all he really needs to prepare for the regular season is to see action in two preseason games.
"I feel like if I can do that then I will have the necessary reps that I need to feel good about myself," Garcia said. "On top of that, I'll be able to get more reps in practice and start to take more control of the situation."
Garcia took a few reps early in the Monday afternoon practice before moving over to the adjacent field to do individual work with team trainers. He also took some snaps during the team's walk-through under the tent.
"My arm feels good," Garcia said. "Mentally I feel good, so it's just a matter of getting back on the physical side of things, getting back to 100 percent, being able to do my game, which means being able to move around a little bit."
Head Coach Jon Gruden said he was glad to have his starting signal-caller back on the field and continuing to develop within the Bucs' offense.
"He practiced a little bit," Gruden said. "He took a lot of snaps in our walk-through. As I said, he's going to return today and we're working him back in. The better he feels, the more he'll get, but we're excited to have him back out there.
"It's concerning [he was out for that long]. He obviously missed the first few days of camp for an excused absence, but you've got to have your quarterback practicing."
Garcia agreed, saying the toughest thing about missing time was the physical reps he has been unable to accumulate. However, Garcia said he did everything he could to keep his mind sharp during the down time.
"It's unfortunate that I've missed that much of the physical reps on the field," Garcia said. "Granted, there are mental reps that are taking place, also, and I try to stay on top of it as much as possible by watching film with my teammates and going through those types of things, making sure I'm staying mentally sharp. But you can't replicate what you do on the field, so it's important for me to get back out there as soon as possible. I need to be out here and be practicing, going through the reps. That's been the biggest disappointment for me so far."
With a nationally-televised preseason tilt against the defending AFC Champion New England Patriots looming, it would be ideal for Garcia to resume his starting role Sunday. However, both Garcia and Gruden said they are taking things day by day, and the outlook for Garcia playing against the Patriots is not good at this point.
"I can't tell right now," Gruden said. "Obviously he's very questionable. We'd like to get him to the point where he can operate at full speed again. Until he can, we won't play him. But it's good to have him in the huddle [at practice], that's for sure."
Other Injury Updates
Garcia's return to the practice field was a plus for the Bucs on Monday afternoon, but a few players are still dealing with the usual bumps and bruises training camp brings about.
Safety Donte Nicholson was the newest name on the injured list as he sat out Monday's practice, but Gruden said it was nothing major.
"Yeah, we held Donte," Gruden said. "He's sore from the game. He'll be okay this week. "We gave a couple guys one more added day's rest — [tight end] Ben Troupe, [cornerback] Sammy Davis and Nicholson."
In addition, Gruden said there was still no update on injured veteran wideout Joey Galloway.
"I don't know," Gruden said. "I get tired of addressing it, obviously. All flights are canceled until further notice, I guess that's the update I have."
Vets Take in Practice
The Bucs weren't the only ones in uniform Monday afternoon, as about 50 war veterans were on hand to watch the team practice.
Decked out in fatigues, the group was comprised of U.S. Army vets from Central Command and U.S. Special Ops. Command, as well as men and women from the Army Reserve and the Florida National Guard.
Most of the veterans in attendance were retired, but a few were still in active service. Some were even wounded while fighting in Iraq.
Sergeant Major Steve Valley said that the chance to watch the Bucs practice was a two-way street of appreciation — the Bucs respecting the soldiers' service of our country and the soldiers appreciating the players' performances on Sundays.
"It shows these guys that what they do is really appreciated by people from all levels," Valley said. "It brings the professional athletes to their level and shows a deep pride and appreciation for what they do."
Valley added that the soldiers who took in Monday's practice were grateful for the many military outreach programs the Bucs organization takes part in.
"The Bucs have got to lead the NFL in reaching back to the military," Valley said. "This is just one of a number of things that they do with local military from Tampa, and it truly shows how fantastic the organization is in connecting with the men and women that serve our country."