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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Simms' backup no longer lurks
By STEPHEN HOLDER
Published April 2, 2006
TAMPA - Chris Simms anointed himself the undisputed starter even before Brian Griese, who signed with the Bears, was waived.
"It's great going into the offseason workouts knowing that I am the starter and the organization is looking to me," he said after signing a one-year restricted free-agent tender last month.
Still, we hadn't heard it quite that explicitly from his coach, Jon Gruden - until now. At the NFL owners' meetings last week, Gruden spoke of how Simms, entering his fourth season, has reached a benchmark every young player strives for: the day when he no longer must look over his shoulder.
"I think that'll help him, not having to worry," he said. "The whole football team knows who our starting quarterback is. Settle down. Relax. Do your interviews. Get them over with and concentrate on what we've got to do."
Every player and coach likes to babble about confidence and how he doesn't feel pressure. Nonsense. Pressure is real, especially when you've not dealt with it much. And with Griese on board, that's what Simms, 25, confronted daily.
With every interception, his mind would wander. With each upset loss, he would hope his fear of being replaced would not become reality.
You'll never hear a coach say competition is a bad thing. But when it morphs into pressure, it can become counterproductive.
So while the Bucs lost a reliable and capable quarterback in the 31-year-old Griese, they know they don't have a young quarterback with a fragile state of mind on their hands. Simms being the unquestioned starter also eliminates the potential for a divided locker room, which often occurs during a quarterback debate.
Gruden says the right things where Simms is concerned, such as, "I believe in this man."
But the more important message is the team's decision not to panic. It has stayed out of the Joey Harrington sweepstakes and hasn't made a serious push for any of the marquee quarterbacks on the market. That tells Simms his analysis, though premature, was right on.
MORE SIMMS: Gruden said he hopes to convince Simms' father, Super Bowl-winning quarterback Phil, to have some level of involvement with the Bucs.
"He doesn't come around," Gruden said. "We're trying to get him to come around some more because I'd like to be around Phil Simms. He gives me confidence being around guys like that."
It might be tricky with Phil working for CBS during the season. Plus, as Gruden said, Phil "likes to stay in the background."
That won't stop Gruden: "I'm trying to encourage him to get a little closer to the situation because I think he could help us."
TUCKER'S DEAL: The offer sheet to Cowboys restricted free agent Torrin Tucker is worth $2.6-million with a $100,000 bonus and $1.2-million base salary for 2006, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. A $200,000 roster bonus and $1.1-million base would apply for 2007, meaning the cap implications would be minimal if the Bucs decided not to bring him back.
Dallas has until Thursday to match the offer.
LET'S REVIEW: One of the strongest arguments against the Bucs' proposal that penalties be subject to review came from Carolina coach John Fox.
"I remember way back when we decided to bring back replay, one of the (arguments) against it was that the officials would use it as a crutch and not officiate as quick and precise as they should," he said. "I absolutely believe that's happened with replay.
"And the more we move along, they're having people do their jobs for them, like coaches. The way I look at it is, they're not officiating it. I have to. At the end of the day, it makes our jobs as coaches harder."