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If the Bucs do need to use a backup against the Saints, it's uncertain which one.
By RICK STROUD
Published November 27, 2007
TAMPA - Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia has a deep bruise in his lower back that is causing pain and could force him to miss Sunday's important NFC South showdown at New Orleans.
As a result, the Bucs will prepare another quarterback to play against the Saints.
It might not be Bruce Gradkowski.
Coach Jon Gruden said Monday that he will re-evaluate his order of backup quarterbacks and could turn to Luke McCown.
Gradkowski played poorly in Sunday's 19-13 win over the Washington Redskins, was loudly booed and eventually benched after going 9-of-19 for 100 yards.
"I expect more from him. He knows that. Our team knows that," Gruden said of Gradkowski on Monday.
"We're going to consider all the facts, we're going to take a look at the performance we see from Bruce Sunday, the status of Jeff's health and the fact that McCown is a promising young player that if you had time to give him repetitions, to get him ready to perform, maybe that's a different story. So we're going to think about all the facts, and hopefully before we go to bed (Monday), we'll have a pretty good direction as to where we're headed (today)."
If Garcia can't practice Wednesday, Gradkowski or McCown will get 100 percent of the repetitions, Gruden said. A final decision on Sunday's starter probably won't be made until later in the week.
Garcia was injured on the first play of the game when he scrambled and was hit between the ribs and his hip by Redskins defensive end Cornelius Griffin.
Garcia participated in two more plays before being replaced. X-rays revealed no fractures, and team doctors determined Garcia could play without risk of further damage. He returned for three series in the fourth quarter but failed to produce a first down.
Garcia was unavailable for comment Monday.
"I don't want to speculate at this point," Gruden said. "He might be ready to go Wednesday; he might not be. And he might be ready to go against the Saints, and he might not be, and we'll deal with that on a day-to-day basis. ... We'll see where he is (today) and the following day.
"There are a lot of guys who have had lower back injuries," Gruden said. "I don't like to compare this injury to the one Brad Johnson had in 2002 or the one that David Carr had, or the one that Tarvaris Jackson had in Minnesota. There have been a lot of guys with similar injuries. Everybody responds to them differently. The best I can do is say that he has a deep lower back bruise. He's a sore man right now, and his status is day to day."
McCown played briefly in relief of Garcia in the opener at Seattle, completing 1 of 4 passes for 9 yards.
Since then, McCown has been the inactive third quarterback, so his job in practice has been to run the opponent's offense.
When Gradkowski entered Sunday's game, the Redskins used a lot of eight-man fronts and blitzes to shut down the Bucs' running game, daring the second-year pro to beat them through the air. The best thing Gradkowski did might have been protecting the football.
"The No.1 thing you do as a backup quarterback coming into a game with three months of inactivity is not turn the ball over," Gruden said. "That's why we won the game. Washington turned it over repeatedly, we didn't, and we won the football game.
"There were some good signs, he managed the offense, he made some pretty good changes. We didn't protect very well, and there were some opportunities that maybe we could've had, but we didn't have an opportunity to look at."
Gradkowski said he isn't concerned that Gruden hasn't named a No.2 quarterback for Sunday's game.
"No, it doesn't bother me at all," Gradkowski said. "I'm going to prepare just like Jeff was the starter, just like I've been preparing and go into this game like, hey, there's probably more than likely a chance I'll be playing."
But that's a scenario Gruden hopes to avoid.
"We're concerned about (Garcia). I'll be honest," Gruden said. "I'm very concerned about Jeff, and I should be."
Rick Stroud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Last modified November 27, 2007, 01:02:10]