TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden said Monday there is a ``possibility'' quarterback Jeff Garcia could play this week against Houston.
Gruden said there is nothing structurally wrong with Garcia's bruised back and despite backup Luke McCowan's big game in Tampa Bay's 27-23 victory over New Orleans on Sunday, his 37-year-old starter will be back in the lineup as soon as he is medically cleared to play.
``He's a needed guy on our football team,'' Gruden said. ``We need to win another game. We're in the fight of our lives to win every Sunday, and this week is no different.''
Garcia sustained a deep back bruise Nov. 25 against Washington. He did not work out until Friday of last week, and only did so in a limited fashion.
McCown replaced him against the Saints and threw for a career-high 313 passing yards in his first start since Dec. 26, 2004.
Garcia made a brief appearance in the locker room Monday but did not talk to reporters.
McCown was 29-of-37 after spending most of this season as the inactive third quarterback. He finished the game-winning drive with a 4-yard TD pass to Jerramy Stevens in the closing seconds.
The victory gave the Bucs (8-4) a three-game lead in the NFC South with four games remaining, meaning Tampa Bay could clinch at least a tie for the division title by beating the Texans on Sunday.
If Garcia can't play, then the trip to Houston will be a homecoming of sorts for McCown, who was born and raised in Jacksonville, Texas.
Gruden said Garcia would need to be able to practice more this week if he's going to play.
``He's already missed one week of practice,'' the coach said. ``We'll just take it day by day.''
McCown is ready to step aside when Garcia returns.
``I'm sure Jeff will be ready to go. He certainly seems like it,'' McCown said. ``You always have to be prepared to play. That's my mind-set.''

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