QB Brian Griese was ruled out for the rest of the 2005 season a year and a day after he made his first start as a Buccaneer
After the team's bye-week practice on Wednesday morning, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Jon Gruden delivered the news that many had feared since Sunday, when starting quarterback Brian Griese went down with a knee injury against the Dolphins. Griese's injury is sufficient to cost him the rest of the 2005 season.
The team did not release any specifics of Griese's injury – ACL, MCL, etc. – but Gruden confirmed that the quarterback would have surgery in the coming days and would be placed on injured reserve. Gruden, who earlier had to deliver the same information to Griese, called it a "sad day" for the quarterback and the team.
"It was a very emotional day, really," said Gruden. "This guy has put a lot into the football team and his performance in the last 15 or 16 games has helped us turn the corner and at least be competitive and on the brink of winning every Sunday. It wasn't easy and he's got a long process, a long road ahead. He's the kind of guy who can overcome those odds."
Griese cannot play again in 2005 after being placed on injured reserve, but he can remain with the team to help the other quarterbacks. Gruden expects his former starter to be very helpful in that regard and also to be determined in the rehabilitation of his knee in order to be ready for next season.
"He'll continue to be with the team and help our young quarterbacks, and hopefully come back bigger and stronger and better than ever next year," said Gruden. "He's a leader on this team. He's been voted captain almost unanimously by this football team and his leadership will be a big part of our team this season. There's no question about that, and hopefully for seasons to come."
It took several days to come to a final decision on Griese's fate for the rest of the season because multiple examinations were performed and several opinions were sought. Though there have been predictions of Griese's trip to IR since Monday, that decision wasn't made until very recently.
"We did everything we could, and Brian wanted to do everything also, to get as much information as we could," said Gruden. "There was a glimmer of hope that we could put it in a cast and possibly get him back in four to six weeks. But at the end of all the research, this is an injury that's going to cause him to miss the rest of the season."
Before his injury, which occurred when Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas rolled backwards into the lower part of Griese's planted left leg just after a throw, the eighth-year veteran had completed 112 of 174 passes for 1,136 yards, seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. He had completed 64.4% of his passes and compiled a passer rating of 79.6. Griese's final performance of 2005, which lasted just under two quarters, was one of his best, as he completed 12 of 16 passes for 120 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions for a passer rating of 116.7.
Chris Simms will take over as the team's starting quarterback. A third-year player out of Texas, Simms was the team's third-round draft pick in 2003 and he was briefly anointed the starter in 2004. Simms' first NFL start came at New Orleans on October 10, 2004, but he suffered a shoulder injury one quarter into that game and was replaced by Griese. While Simms recovered, Griese put a stranglehold on the starting job with a series of outstanding performances. Still, the Bucs have clearly had confidence in Simms for some time.
The Bucs are also comfortable with their depth at the position, particularly after Tuesday's trade for San Francisco veteran Tim Rattay. Rattay has started 13 games over the last two seasons, including the first four this season as he beat out the draft's number-one overall pick, Alex Smith, to start the season.
"It's a credit to [General Manager] Bruce Allen and [Director of Player Personnel] Ruston Webster for helping us get Tim Rattay, a guy we think can really play and a guy that fits the criteria of what we're looking for here," said Gruden. "He's a quality guy, he's a winner, he's got a lot of experience given the history that he has behind him throwing the football."
There is never a good point in the season to lose your starting quarterback, but in some ways the timing of Griese's injury proved fortunate. The trade for Rattay just happened to be completed shortly before the NFL's trading deadline on Tuesday; the Bucs had actually inquired about Rattay during the offseason but might not have been moved to revisit the deal if not for Griese's misfortune. And, had the injury happened two weeks later, Rattay would have been unattainable.
"If Brian [had] to be injured, it's nice it happened now because you aren't going to be able to acquire somebody who went to training camp, whose been a starter this season in the NFL, someone you feel is a good fit for our offense, after the trade deadline," said Allen. "He will be a great fit for our team. He will come in and be our number three quarterback, behind Chris and Luke [McCown]. It gives us some great insurance and a feeling that we can sleep at night that we have a bona fide NFL starter."
The timing of Griese's injury also gives the Bucs two weeks to prepare Simms for his first start of the season, which just happens to be against Rattay's former team, the 49ers, on Sunday, October 30. Simms began his preparations for that game on Wednesday, taking the first-team snaps during a one-hour practice in the morning.
"Today's really a sad day in a lot of ways because we do have closure on Griese's situation," said Gruden. "But we're very excited for Chris Simms. He had a good workout today and we're going to rally around him the best we can."