This quarterback thing is far from determined, but the past week certainly created some juicy off-season drama.
Last Friday Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden said veteran Jeff Garcia was the "leader in the clubhouse" in the battle to be starting quarterback. The information — and the fact that Gruden was so free with it — was a wee bit startling.
The next day during a fan event at Raymond James Stadium, Chris Simms — the guy Garcia would replace — seemed eager to continue competing against Garcia to change Gruden's mind.
Then on Tuesday, the playing field changed — or at least that's what Fox 13 reported. Simms had been dropped to No. 3 on the depth chart, behind Bruce Gradkowski, last year's rookie starter. Until Wednesday it was difficult to find any information corroborating Fox 13's claim.
A quick surf around several Tampa-area news sites revealed that Gradkowski was taking second-team snaps during practice. Plus, Simms told reporters that the removal of his spleen has led to some mechanical problems, which quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett confirmed. Simms is favoring his midsection where he spleen was removed, and that's leading to the mechanical problems.
Then on Thursday Garcia told reporters that he's a long way away from getting this offense down, likening his processing of the playbook on the field to a "slow computer."
See, this is what happens when you go on vacation for five days. Stuff happens.
Garcia may be the starter in Gruden's eyes, and that's fine for now. But this "second-string" stuff for Gradkowski? That's the kind of talk that should be soft-pedaled. There is no "official" depth chart at this time of year, and for good reason. If the Bucs kept one, it would change daily. It would be a real pain in the butt — for them and for the average fan.
Giving Gradkowski second-team reps accomplishes getting Gradkowski more time under center — which, admittedly he needs — but it does not make him the second-string quarterback, at least in my eyes. Second-team reps in June don't mean anything except reps. Simms has nearly three months to get his fundamentals together and change Gruden's mind, more than enough time to assert himself as the No. 2 quarterback, which, in my mind, he is. Until I see an official depth chart, that's my train of thought.
Frankly, if Gradkowski is the second-string quarterback at Seattle on opening weekend, the Bucs are one injury away from deep trouble.
Next week: The Bucs will have their mandatory mini-camp Tuesday through Thursday at One Buc Place. They will be the final practices before training camp. All players will be in attendance, but defensive end Simeon Rice probably won't practice as he rehabs his shoulder.
Gruden told the media on Thursday that Rice would likely be ready for training camp.
Rice's absence on the field will give first-round pick Gaines Adams more time to absorb the defense, and second-year end Julian Jenkins more time to prove he deserves a roster spot at a position that is getting increasingly crowded.
Training camp schedule: If you're making plans to go to Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex for training camp, here's the schedule (all workouts are open to the public. Times are subject to change):
Friday, July 27: Practices: 8:30 -11:00 a.m. and 2:45 - 5:15 p.m.
Saturday, July 28: Practices: 8:30 - 11:00 a.m. and 2:45 - 5:15 p.m.
Sunday, July 29: Practices: 8:30 - 11:00 a.m. and 2:45 - 5:15 p.m.
Monday, July 30: Practices: 8:30 - 11:00 a.m. and 2:45 - 3:55 p.m. (ST)
Tuesday, July 31: Practices: 8:30 - 11:00 a.m. and 2:45 - 5:15 p.m.
Wednesday, August 1: Practices: 8:30 - 11:00 a.m. and 2:45 - 5:15 p.m.
Thursday, August 2: Practices: 8:30 - 11:00 a.m. and 2:45 - 3:55 p.m. (ST)
Friday, August 3: Practices: 8:30 - 11:00 a.m. and 2:45 - 5:15 p.m.
Saturday, August 4: Practice: 8:30 - 11:00 a.m., No PM Practice
Sunday, August 5: Practices: 8:30 - 11:00 a.m. and 2:45 - 5:15 p.m.
Monday, August 6: Practices: 8:30 - 11:00 a.m. and 2:45 - 3:55 p.m. (ST)
Tuesday, August 7: Practices: 8:30 - 11:00 a.m. and 2:45 - 4:50 p.m.
Wednesday, August 8: Practices: 8:30 - 11:00 a.m. and 2:45 - 4:50 p.m.
Thursday, August 9: Walk-Through – 10:15 -11:15 a.m.
Friday, August 10: Preseason Opener: Tampa Bay vs. New England 7:30 p.m. ET – Raymond James Stadium
Saturday, August 11: Players Day Off
Sunday, August 12: No AM Practice, Practice: 2:45 - 4:30 p.m.
Monday, August 13: Practices: 8:30 - 11:00 a.m. and 2:45 - 4:45 p.m.
Tuesday, August 14: Practices: 8:30 - 11:00 a.m. and 2:45 - 4:45 p.m.
Wednesday, August 15: Practices: 8:30 - 11:00 a.m. and 2:45 - 4:45 p.m.
Thursday, August 16: Practice 8:30 - 10:45 a.m., Camp Breaks
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. Included among his more than two dozen writing and editing awards are national awards from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors, and state awards from the Florida Press Club and the Florida Sports Writers Association, for his coverage of the Buccaneers since 2004.