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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: I'll get with program
The quarterback takes the heat for failed expectations in the opener and says he will find a way to cut down on mistakes.
By RICK STROUD
Published September 14, 2006
[Times photos: Bill Serne]
Chris Simms releases a pass that is about to be batted down by the Ravens' Ray Lewis. Simms, who was the focus of the gameday program, at top, took the blame for the ongoing problem of batted balls and for failre to recognize the defensive fronts.
TAMPA - Sleep did not come easily to Chris Simms.
After his stunningly poor performance in a 27-0 loss to the Ravens, the Bucs quarterback kept punching his pillow.
When he would nod off, he was shaken awake by the memory of his three interceptions.
Soon, the number rose to six. Then 12. And still no final buzzer from the alarm.
"You know, I sleep. But 5 o'clock in the morning rolls around and I wake up just like everybody else does for a couple seconds and I get visions of Chris McAlister running down the sidelines," Simms said Wednesday of the cornerback who returned an interception 60 yards for a touchdown Sunday. "Things like that. That's the honest truth. I fall back to sleep eventually, but it's not the most peaceful dreams in the world.
"I just didn't play good all around and didn't help out the offensive line at all. I made some stupid decisions in the passing game. I was the reason we lost. Period."
Simms does not have a 12-step program to detox from self-destructive quarterback play. His therapy involves a television remote and watching lowlights of other NFL passers throwing to the wrong colored jerseys.
"I think the biggest thing is I like watching the highlights. Oddly enough, I like watching to see, okay, another quarterback threw a few interceptions," Simms said. "That makes me feel better. And then when I come back on Monday and watch the film, and just come to terms with the mistakes I made, Coach yells at me a little bit. For whatever, that's my psychiatric help for the day and I seem to get over it."
Not that his meeting Monday with Jon Gruden and quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett was any fun. Simms would've been more excited about root canal.
There was yelling, screaming and swearing. And that was before Simms entered the room.
Gruden was publicly critical of Simms on Monday. Hackett made that assessment look like a backhanded compliment Wednesday.
"He couldn't have played much worse," Hackett said. "Any time you throw the ball to the other team, it's unacceptable under any circumstances. If you do that, everything else that you do that's good doesn't matter. I think that's unacceptable. I think he knows it as well as anybody. The single most important thing of quarterback play was violated in week one. What else can you say?"
Hackett was surprised Simms played so poorly after starting 11 games last season.
"I know they're a very good defense," said Hackett, in his 19th season in the NFL, second with the Bucs. "But there's no excuse for it."
Speaking of excuses, Simms is no longer making any for the alarming number of passes that are being batted down at the line of scrimmage.
"I've just got to find ways to throw it around guys and maybe throw it a little quicker here and there," the 6-foot-4 Simms said. "Just things like that where I've got to be more aware when I'm out there on the field to get it around some of these big defensive linemen."
Simms also fell on the sword for the team's failure to recognize some of the Ravens' defensive fronts, deflecting criticism from center John Wade. On at least one occasion, the Ravens overloaded the left side of the line of scrimmage and Simms was sacked.
"I messed up simple, day one practice back in OTA (organized team activities), April stuff that I shouldn't have messed up on," Simms said. "You've just got to imagine being in John Wade's shoes. He's down in a squatting position with a 330-pound guy right on his nose and he's trying to read blitzes and which way they're coming from and I have a better perspective pretty much all the time."
Keeping perspective is what Simms is working on now. The Bucs have lost one game. They play the NFC South-leading Falcons in Atlanta on Sunday.
Simms, 26, waited four years to fulfill his dream of being the starting quarterback on opening day of the NFL season. Sunday, he had his eyes opened.
"He's in a position now where he's going to have to take the responsibility for the good times and the bad," Gruden said. "This ain't going to be all gravy. You know, you can be on the cover of the program and you can have your banner up in town. Sometimes you wake up and wish my face wasn't on this program and my banner wasn't up."