LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) -Tampa Bay quarterback Chris Simms says his sore left elbow is improving and he's not concerned about where he is on the Buccaneers' depth chart a week into training camp.
The fifth-year pro, out most of last season after having his spleen removed, is struggling to regain his throwing form and has fallen behind Luke McCown and Bruce Gradkowski in the competition to back up starter Jeff Garcia.
Simms took part in some passing drills Friday and was encouraged by the way he threw the ball. In addition to having more zip on his passes, he completed one deep throw to his favorite target, Joey Galloway.
``It has been a long time since I hit him with a deep ball like that. ... It felt good,'' Simms said.
``I'm trying to get myself used to those normal motions that you do as a quarterback every day. Just kind of retraining my body. The elbow feels good, it really does. It's without a doubt improved.''
Although the Bucs have not yet released a depth chart for next Friday's preseason opener against New England, McCown - out all of last season with a knee injury - clearly is the front-runner to be No. 2.
Meanwhile, coach John Gruden said he's not concerned about left tackle Luke Petitgout's inability to practice much of the week because of a back strain.
Petitgout, signed as a free agent in March, started nine games at left tackle for the New York Giants before breaking a leg against Chicago on Nov. 12 and missing the remainder of last season.
Petitgout has been slowed at times during his career by back injuries, however Gruden said the Bucs are not being extra cautious. The ninth-year pro returned to practice in a limited fashion Friday afternoon after sitting out Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday morning.
``It's just a strain. It's taken a couple of days to get well. ... I'm doing what the training staff advises, and I'm real confident he's going to be fine,'' Gruden said.
As for the quarterbacks, Gruden estimates that McCown has taken about 40 percent of the snaps during practice.
Simms has been limited because of his elbow, which has kept him out of 11-on-11 drills this week.
``I'm really not worried about it. I've just got to take care of myself and make sure I get back to where I need to be,'' Simms said. ``I'm not worried about first, second or third string. I'm just not where I need to be yet.''
Gruden reiterated that Simms' involvement in drills will increase when he starts performing better.
``He's a guy who needs to regain his rhythm,'' the coach said.
``We need accurate passes, timely decision-making and playmaking from that position. That's the objective. It doesn't matter who we're talking about. McCown has gotten better with his absence, and Garcia has clearly taken control at the quarterback position. But we like Chris.''
Simms was injured in Week 3 and missed the remainder of last season. He thinks he's healthy enough to take a hit in a game, but is baffled by his sore arm and inability to make accurate throws.
``I would have no problem with it,'' he said when asked if he'd be comfortable making decisions and doing what quarterbacks have to do in a game.
``My mind is not the problem, as far as dropping back and finding the open receiver. I'm a little late trying to get it to them. I'm just a little inaccurate with it. It's like my mind says, 'OK, there he is, he's open.' I'm just not quick and sharp with it.''

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