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QB has friends up front

By ROGER MILLS
Published October 9, 2004

TAMPA - Quarterback Chris Simms will enter Sunday's game knowing the offensive line plans to do everything it can to make his first start as stress-free as possible.

"All of us remember their first start or their first time being thrown into the mix and I think it's 10 times worse because he's the quarterback," guard Cosey Coleman said. "There's no question that everyone can relate to what he's going through and we have to be there for him any time we can."

Simms, 24, is making his first NFL start on the road, in a dome, against a New Orleans team coming off a humiliating loss in Arizona last weekend. Coleman said the experienced players will help Simms with inevitable nerves.

"Veterans will have to lead and take charge out there as far as controlling the crowd and keeping things settled," Coleman said. "But it's his show and we're completely behind him. We're going to let him lead, for the most part. Now, if a veteran has to calm him down, settle him down, get him in line, I'm sure we have several guys who can do that."

NO. 2: Coach Jon Gruden said naming the No. 2 quarterback against the Saints will be a game-time decision. Backup Brian Griese took most of the snaps with the second unit Friday.

POSITIVES FOR MAHAN: While Gruden has applauded the efforts of reserve right tackle Kenyatta Walker (who will continue to play behind starter Todd Steussie), he also has slipped in a few words of praise for Sean Mahan.

"Obviously, when anything positive comes out of the coach's mouth it's exciting for me," Mahan said. "My role has increased a lot from last year to this year and I'm expected to step up if something happens to one of the starters inside. But you can't take anything for granted."

The fifth-round pick out of Notre Dame last year has played in every game this season and is the backup at both left and right guard.

"I have no preference, it's wherever I can get in," he said. "Right guard, left guard, center. I was drafted as a guard and played primarily left guard, but I've played them all. I even played a little tackle in college, but that wouldn't happen here."

NOW, IT'S STECKER TIME: With the injury to running back Deuce McAllister, the Saints have turned the running duties over to former Bucs back Aaron Stecker. Stecker, who spent the first four years in Tampa, has 170 yards on 41 carries, including a 42-yard touchdown run two weeks ago.

"Aaron has done a real good job," Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks said. "He's averaging over four yards a carry. We know he's a very good football player and we go in there with very high respect for what Steck can do. We know he's a game breaker and we have our work cut out for us."

INJURY UPDATE: Receiver Joey Galloway (groin tear) is out. Defensive end Anthony McFarland, who also has a groin problem, was removed from the injury report and is expected to play.

[Last modified October 9, 2004, 01:03:23]

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