By Jeff Berlinicke
Whatever happens in Friday's pre-season opener between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans cannot by any stretch of the imagination be taken seriously.
That said, basically, Bucs fans, there's no reason to get excited over a glorified scrimmage game. Players can get much more work out of a good day of practice, but the NFL demands that each team play at least four exhibition games, selling tickets at the same cost as regular season games. After halftime, there won't be more than five Bucs on the field who will actually be wearing the pewter and gold when the season kicks off for good on Sept. 11 in Minnesota.
There is one intriguing angle to the game, which makes it worth watching. The Bucs will start incumbent quarterback Brian Griese, but he won't play more than a few series of downs. The quarterback job has been Griese's to lose all summer and he hasn't done anything to give it up, while Chris Simms and Luke McCown, both battling it out for the No. 2 spot, haven't done anything to throw a scare into Griese.
Against the Titans, a team that lost most of its starting defense due to free agency, it will be Simms' turn to show what he can do. Simms, who has never waded into the good graces of coach Jon Gruden, will play most of the first half and most of the second half. McCown will get a similar chance next week when the Bucs host the Jacksonville Jaguars on Friday.
Simms knows the Bucs offense and earned the starting job for one week last season when former Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson went down with an injury. Simms last only a few series in his only start before being injured, and Griese came in to clean up. Griese ended the season with a 69.3 completion percentage and Simms only saw limited action. Simms will be playing with backups trying to make the team, but it might be his only chance to impress the Bucs coaching staff. After McCown gets most of the snaps next week, it will be Griese's time to get some reps to round out the exhibition season. No one denies that Simms is a student of the game, but so is McCown.
Several Bucs, including Derrick Deese and Charlie Garner won't suit up against Tennessee and the second half of opening exhibition games tend to get ugly. It could be even worse o Friday since there are so many roster spots open for the Titans that it's a given that some overly-enthusiastic non-drafted free agent will be trying to make a name for himself.
Bucs rookies Cadillac Williams, Alex Smith, Barrett Ruud, Dan Buenning, Chris Colmer will also be making their debuts for the Bucs while Simms will at least have a chance to hand off to Michael Pittman for part of the second quarter. Derek Watson, a running back who had troubles at South Carolina, will get playing time in the second half and looks to impress in his efforts to beat out Earnest Graham for the third spot in the backfield.
Simms Gets Chance To Impress
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