Bucs' Garcia eager to begin showing Gruden made wise choice Print
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Thursday, 09 August 2007 12:45
NFL Headline News

 TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -He's 37 and entering his ninth NFL season, yet in some ways Jeff Garcia feels like he's starting all over.
That's why the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback, who also played five seasons in the Canadian Football League, is excited about making his debut for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Friday's preseason opener against the New England Patriots.
``You want to perform well, especially since I'm the new guy in here,'' said Garcia, who probably won't play long.
The Bucs likely won't see much of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, either. And, they won't face receiver Randy Moss at all because New England's biggest addition on offense has been slowed during training camp by a sore hamstring.
Starters typically play less than a quarter, and in many instances only a series or two, in the first three preseason games, giving coaches plenty of time to evaluate young, mostly unproven talent.
``We have a lot of people to get ready for a lot of different situations,'' Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.
``We're just trying to get everybody an opportunity to show us what they can do. We've had a lot of teaching. We've had a lot of practice, seen a lot of blue and white jerseys. We'll see a different color on Friday, and we'll see how it goes out there.''
Doesn't sound exciting, but that's preseason football.
Belichick and Bucs coach Jon Gruden approach it much the same way, providing very little information about their plans for using specific players.
Gruden was criticized a year ago when the Bucs began the season with four straight losses after using his starters, including young quarterback Chris Simms, sparingly during the preseason. The Bucs finished 4-12, their worst record since 1996.
``I've had people ask why we don't play some of the regulars longer. It's because we need to see some of the younger players more,'' Gruden said. ``We've had our share of injuries. We've gone to our third quarterback three out of the last four years, so you better make sure the guy has some experience.''
Gruden has a point. The No. 1 quarterbacks coming out of training camp have started only 13 games for Tampa Bay over the past three seasons.
Simms, last year's starter after leading the Bucs to the playoffs in 2005, lasted three games.
Fourth-year pro Luke McCown, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, will follow Garcia against the Patriots, taking his first snap in a game since the 2005 preseason. Bruce Gradkowski could see action, too, but it's not clear if Simms - still trying to regain his form after having his spleen removed 11 months ago - will play.
``A lot of people have been counting my quarterbacks,'' said Gruden, who this offseason also traded for the retired Jake Plummer and met with Daunte Culpepper before the former Minnesota and Miami star signed with Oakland.
``I'm going to make myself perfectly clear: I'm looking for one quarterback that we can live with for ... years. Until we find that guy, we'll keep looking.''
Garcia signed as a free agent in March after filling in for the injured Donovan McNabb and winning five of six starts to help Philadelphia make the playoffs. But he hasn't played a full season since 2002, so having a solid backup is imperative.
``We love Garcia and what he's doing for our team,'' Gruden said. ``We're hoping one of the young guys can step up and be a guy that challenges.''
Camp injuries, including the sore hamstring that's sidelined Moss, has given several Patriots additional opportunities to make an impression in practice. Belichick is eager now to see how they can apply what they've learned against another team.
``I'm sure there will be some things that will come up in the game that we really haven't spent a lot of time on that will be kind of new game-type of situations and we'll have to teach and coach off of those,'' Belichick said.
``I would imagine that we probably wouldn't do those things as well, but I'd like to think that the things that we've practiced, we would be able to go out and execute it at a competitive level in this game. But we'll see.''

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