Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Bucs fans like what QB Simms is selling

But charisma won't be enough to oust Johnson

By Fred Goodall
The Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. - Jon Gruden can understand why Tampa Bay fans are talking about Chris Simms. The Buccaneers coach is excited, too.

"He has great ability and we can see that," Gruden said Tuesday, reflecting on the 23-year-old quarterback's strong performance in a preseason victory over Cincinnati.

"He has mobility, a great arm, and he is a good football player. He made some good decisions last night, and he has a charisma about him that I think everybody loves."

But before anyone misinterprets those comments to mean the second-year pro is closing in on Brad Johnson's starting job, Gruden wants to make it clear that he's happy with Johnson and Brian Griese, too.

All three quarterbacks produced points in Monday night's 20-6 victory over the Bengals, and Simms and Griese will swap spots in the rotation when the Bucs face the Jacksonville Jaguars on Friday night.

"Brad got in there and went 3-for-3. I don't think he can go 4-for-3," Gruden said.

"But I liked Brian Griese, too. He engineered a key scoring drive and another drive in which we missed a field goal. He took our team 90 yards with a lot of (third-stringers) in there that he hasn't played with much. I thought all three of the guys played well, but Simms can be quite flashy."

Simms, a third-round draft pick last year, didn't play a down during the regular season as a rookie but is making a strong bid to become No. 2 behind the 35-year-old Johnson.

The former Texas star replaced Johnson on Tampa Bay's second series and completed 12 of 15 passes for 110 yards. He led the Bucs to a touchdown and field goal before Griese entered midway through the third quarter.

"It was a blast," the son of former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms said.

"There is always that doubt going into the season. I haven't played in a full year. You wonder what it's going to be like once you get out there. But once you get out there and get going, you can just play and not think anymore."

With most of the starters playing less than a quarter or not at all, Gruden got an opportunity to take a good look at some promising young prospects, as well as several veterans who are new to the team.

Receiver Michael Clayton, this year's first-round draft pick, had three receptions for 39 yards. The catches - for 14, 12 and 13 yards - all came on a drive that Martin Gramatica finished with a 46-yard field goal.

"He's the real deal. He came right out catching balls," Simms said.

"A lot of newcomers played very well," Gruden said, noting Bill Schroeder, the former Green Bay and Detroit receiver, continued to impress with two catches for 41 yards.

"It's a good building block for us," the coach added, "something to build off of."

The Bucs also made it through the game relatively healthy. The most serious injury was to receiver Edell Shepherd, who broke his right foot and may be lost for the season.

Guard Jason Whittle has what was described as a "slight" hand fracture that will limit him in practice this week. He is questionable for Friday night's game.

2004 Prep football preview section
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Prep sports results, schedules

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