To fully regain his throwing motion, QB Chris Simms had to get his core muscles responding properly again
Quarterback Chris Simms was fighting as hard as he could to return from a serious spleen injury suffered early in the 2006 season, but something wasn't quite right.
Simms never stopped pushing. He worked tirelessly through the offseason months leading up to training camp last summer but he simply couldn't regain his strength.
As it turned out, he wasn't fighting the right thing. What he thought was rust caused by the longest layoff from throwing he'd ever taken was actually a side effect from the surgery he endured after suffering a ruptured spleen against Carolina on September 24, 2006. That side effect would derail his comeback attempt in 2007, forcing him back to the injured reserve list for a second season.
"I basically just found out that – I guess it's pretty common with traumatic surgeries – I had a lot of muscles that were shut off around the scar," Simms said. "I guess it's pretty common when you have a bad scar like that, the body kind of knows to shut off the muscles to protect the scar. That's why I lost power and just didn't feel like myself throwing the ball. I had muscles that weren't doing anything; they were just sitting there hanging out.
"[It was the] abdominal muscles, which of course are real important for a thrower. A thrower needs his core more than anything. For me to get that back working, that was a key instrument in me being able to throw the ball better."
Before the root cause of his weakness was discovered, Simms said he was frustrated at his early progress. He was working as hard as he could to recover, pushing ahead with all the strength he could muster, but couldn't figure out why he wasn't feeling like his old self again. Those small muscles in his abdomen were the key.
"[I had to do some] really basic exercises just to stimulate those muscles and get them firing again," Simms said. "It's not like they weren't capable of working. The way it was explained to me, I probably started off with steps three, four and five without doing steps one and two. I just had to get my body doing some functional exercises to get it back going."
Asked if it was disappointing to know that a relatively minor side effect from his surgery had derailed his hopes at coming back in 2007, Simms admitted it was a disheartening situation.
"It is frustrating," Simms said. "I get mad at myself more than anything, because me being hard-headed and trying to be somewhat old-school in the fact where I'm like, 'Alright, I've just got to keep going out there and practicing and working and I'll get better and better.' All that time I really just wasted, because I was, I guess you could say, ignorant to the whole situation, and just thought I was an athlete and could overcome it because I was young and healthy."
However, Simms is a sunny sort by nature, and he's determined to leave that frustration behind him and focus on the future.
"[In] training camp and preseason and all that, I thought I was rusty," Simms said. "I knew it was serious injury I was coming from, but I had to keep staying at it. I basically found that there was a little more to the problem than just that. I'm just glad I got everything figured out and can get back on the right track."
After being placed on injured reserve in October, Simms continued to press forward in his recovery with a 2008 comeback in sight. Although his teammates have cleared out their lockers and headed out for the offseason, Simms' work – and progress – continues.
"I'm working out every day and throwing just about [every day], at least five days a week," Simms said. "I was so happy the first time I went out and really tested it again, kind of put the pedal to the metal, I guess you could say, just because as soon as I threw the first five throws, I was like, 'Man, I feel like myself again.' It was the first time I'd felt like that in a long time, so I was extremely excited."
With veteran Jeff Garcia leading the team to an NFC South championship and backup Luke McCown playing admirably in relief, Simms was asked if he saw himself returning to the Bucs next season to fight for a spot in what has become a talented, and crowded, quarterback corps.
"I see myself back here, hopefully, but it's not all up to me," Simms said. "It's just the way it is right now in this league. I'm just going to continue to worry about the things I can worry about, and that's just getting myself back to where I need to be, and I'll just see where everything else ends up."
Simms is confident of one thing – no matter what happens between now and when minicamps, OTAs and training camp come around, he'll be ready.
"Trust me, there were times where I was like, 'I don't know. Am I ever going to feel the way I felt before the injury?'" he said. "But the last month-and-a-half, I've been throwing a lot, and I have no reason to believe I won't be my old self.
"I should be 100 percent, no question in my mind, the old Chris Simms."