QB Brian Griese has gotten a large amount of reps with the first-team offense over the last two weeks
With Jeff Garcia sidelined for a majority of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' just-concluded training camp, reserves Brian Griese and Luke McCown have each logged significant time with the first-team offense on the practice field.
After Sunday's game against New England, both Griese and McCown will have led the starting offense into live competition, too.
On Friday, Head Coach Jon Gruden revealed that Griese will get the start under center against the Patriots, eight days after McCown got the opening call in the preseason opener in Miami. With Garcia making a gradual recovery from a practice-field calf strain, the Buccaneers have been able to use the first half of the preseason to advance the competition for the number-two spot.
"The one thing that we've been able to do is, both Luke McCown and Brian Griese have taken starter's reps for basically the entire camp," said Gruden. "We chart the reps that they take and both of those guys have been given starter repetitions, which in some ways has really helped those guys. Hopefully it will pay dividends, but we do want to get Jeff back out there on the field and hopefully that will be early next week."
Garcia didn't participate in the full-team drills during Friday's practice, the first at One Buccaneer place since camp wrapped on Thursday, but he did throw extensively with fellow injured veteran Joey Galloway (groin). Last week, Garcia said he hopes to play in two of the four preseason contests; it appears he may take the first steps in that direction in the lead-up to the Jacksonville game on August 23.
"He's getting better," said Gruden. "Again, hopefully early next week he'll be doing a little bit more."
Though Griese and McCown have swapped spots, the Bucs are likely to use a rotation similar to the one that produced a 17-6 win in Miami last Saturday. In that contest, McCown and Griese played in the first half, Chris Simms got a majority of the second-half reps and rookie Josh Johnson finished the game.
The Buc quarterbacks helped themselves in Miami by performing well across the board, which sustained drives and created enough snaps to go around. Though the game was relatively low-scoring, the Bucs held the ball for 36 minutes and threw a total of 40 passes, including 10 or more for each of the three veterans.
"We're going to start with Griese and then go to McCown," said Gruden. "If the situation is what it was last week, we hope to see all the quarterbacks get some work, and certainly Chris."
Ruud Versus Ruud
If Patriots rookie linebacker Bo Ruud can overcome the ankle ailment that has slowed him this summer, Sunday night's game could mark the first time that Bo and his older brother Barrett played in the same game but occupied opposite sidelines.
That's a possibility Tom Ruud couldn't miss.
Barrett and Bo are Tom's sons, and they make up a second-generation tandem of NFL players. Tom played five seasons in the league with the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Patriots in the 1970s. He, too, was a linebacker, and of course all three played their college ball at Nebraska.
The proud patriarch will be at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday night to witness his sons' teams take each other on. Barrett is the starting middle linebacker for the Buccaneers and a former second-round pick in 2005. Bo followed his brother into the league this year, as a sixth-round choice of the Patriots. Bo and Barrett had previously been teammates in high school and at Nebraska.
"It's real exciting," said Tom Ruud. "I look forward to seeing the kids. It's exciting to have them both on the field at the same time."
Nebraska football is a way of life for the Ruuds, as for many clans in that Midwest state. The Ruud sons are just doing what comes naturally.
"We've all kind of gravitated to football," said Tom. "I had a lot of fun doing it, and that's kind of what we've always tried to do.
More from Coach Gruden
The Bucs have returned to training camp at the Wide World of Sports complex in Lake Buena Vista for seven straight years, in part because the facilities at the Disney compound are top-notch. However, it's hardly a step down when the team returns home to Tampa. Since they moved into their new state-of-the-art headquarters in 2006, the Bucs have enjoyed the finest training surroundings in the NFL.
"It was good [to get back home]," said Gruden after Friday's practice. "It's been a long time, it feels like, since we've been back here. It's great to be back in familiar surroundings. Again, we had a very good stay in Orlando but it's always nice to be home. We have a great facility and I just hope all of our players take advantage of it and use it."
Gruden touched on a few other topics on Friday.
On how the receivers have performed in camp: "I feel pretty good. We've said that from Day One. Antonio Bryant's getting better; I think Maurice Stovall had a good camp; Ike [Hilliard] had a good camp; all the guys, really. It's a credit to them. We were minus Joey Galloway the whole camp and they were able to play three and four different positions. Richard Mann did a heck of a job with those guys. Brian Clark had a very good camp, Mike Spurlock did some good things, so I don't want to discount any of the receivers. It's very competitive and this will be a great opportunity for us to look at some guys against a heck of an opponent."
On if TE Ben Troupe has been ruled out for the game: "I don't think so. I think he's going to play. He's had a lingering – I don't know the term – plantar fasciitis or something like that. I don't spell it well, I don't know how to pronounce it. Some of these guys, the best way to heal that is keeping them off it. So we've done that and we are optimistic and very hopeful that Ben can play in the game. We need to get him out there. He's had a good offseason. He's been somewhat disabled with that injury and it's unfortunate."
On if RB Michael Bennett will get a lot of work again: "Well, we're going to look at our other backs, too. Warrick [Dunn] and Earnest [Graham], they need to play and we'll try give those guys some work as well. But we'll lean on Michael Bennett and hopefully Ken Darby can get some work as well."
On Jovan Haye's status: "He's doing well. He's in the same sentence as the other guys, Joey and Jeff. We don't believe it's serious but he has made great progress. Hopefully early next week you'll see him out on the field. We're encouraged by Jovan's progress."