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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 turned down $10-million
The Bucs offered a long-term deal with a big signing bonus, but the QB believed he could get more by waiting until 2007.
By STEPHEN F. HOLDER
Published October 12, 2006
TAMPA - Opting for a one-year deal and the possibility of a bigger windfall later, Chris Simms declined an offseason contract offer from the Bucs that included $10-million in guaranteed money, the quarterback confirmed Wednesday.
"It was good money, definitely. But I was rolling the dice," said Simms, who has since had a splenectomy and is sidelined for the foreseeable future. "I have no regrets.
"I'm human, and I do (feel regretful) about some things from time to time, but I try not to dwell on it and stay positive. If I do think about things like that, I try to use them as motivation and not let them bring me down."
Simms, 26, became a restricted free agent in March and negotiated with the Bucs on a long-term contract. But until now, it was not known to what degree those negotiations heated up. Simms turned down what was believed to be a five-year deal, choosing to sign the one-year tender of $2.1-million that gave the Bucs the right to match other teams' offers.
If the right scenario played out, Simms stood to make significantly more in unrestricted free agency in the spring of 2007. He hoped to build on the gains he made in 2005, when he was 6-2 in his final eight starts and led Tampa Bay to the NFC South championship, then cash in with a contract on par with some of the league's elite quarterbacks.
Simms' agent, hard-bargaining Tom Condon, has negotiated contracts for quarterbacks such as the Jets' Chad Pennington, whose eight-year, $64-million deal included $22-million guaranteed. Earlier this year, Condon negotiated a $60-million deal for New Orleans' Drew Brees that is likely to pay $22-million in its first two seasons.
Simms figured, why not him?
"I'd proven that I could play in the league," he said. "I realized that if I had done a one-year deal, barring me having an injury that was career-ending, I would be okay. I had proven that I have good physical tools. I love the game; put some good things on film. I knew I'd get my contract somewhere, somehow down the line. It didn't really concern me."
The decision "was not tremendously tough," Simms said.
"I totally believed in what I was doing. If I had to do it all over again, I would probably do the same thing. Hindsight is always 20/20, but as long as I stay healthy, I'll get mine down the line."
That climb got significantly tougher when Simms was injured Sept. 24 against Carolina. The fourth-year QB believes he can return this season, saying he has targeted Thanksgiving to be game-ready.
"It's going to be a few more weeks before I can start doing real light workouts," he said. "Then from there, it's, 'Okay, I can work out. Now I can start throwing lightly.' I'll, of course, need a little time to get back into shape. And then the final thing is going to be can I take a hit again? Right now, I have a big scar going down the middle of my chest."
Assuming Simms can meet his goals, there is no guarantee he will play. In his starting debut Sunday, rookie Bruce Gradkowski completed 20 of 31 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns.
Simms, who has one touchdown and seven interceptions in three games, said his return has not been addressed by coach Jon Gruden or general manager Bruce Allen.
"Right now, we have a lot of things going on within our organization that are (more pressing)," Simms said, alluding to the team's 0-4 start. "We've got to get win No. 1. My situation will take care of itself."