Simms unsure where future lies

Chris Simms hopes to return to action after 16 months of not playing but he's not sure his career will resume in Tampa Bay.

"Whether it's the right place for me or not? I don't know," Simms said. "You know me, I don't try to think or force too much. I kind of just let things take their course and we'll see how we go."

Simms, 27, said late last week he hasn't heard from Jon Gruden or Bruce Allen in nearly a month. Nothing unusual about that. He's under contract for 2008 and will begin off-season workouts with the team in late March.

But when you haven't taken a meaningful snap in about 16 months, it's easy to have doubts.

"Three months ago, I was questioning whether or not I was going to make it back," Simms said. "I believe in myself to all degrees, but it's human to have a little doubt at times and I did, that is for sure. I went through some times when I was wondering, "Am I ever going to make it back?

"Am I going to be back to normal? Will I ever play this game I love so much again?"

By now, Simms' story is a familiar one. On February 15, he stood before a crowd of several hundred people at the Hyatt Regency in Tampa -- most of them students -- and recounted how a ruptured spleen threatened his life and career.

A shoulder injury derailed Simms in '04. Doctors say he came within 35-45 minutes of bleeding to death when he ruptured his spleen against Carolina in '06.

When he reported to training camp last summer, he quickly discovered something was still wrong.

"I went through practice and then coach (Gruden) brought me on another field to do some drills," Simms said. "He was making me move around in the pocket and he was clapping his hands to throw it. I don't even know if he noticed, but when he would clap his hands, it took me a split second to get my body to do it. That was the first time I had done something reaction-wise in awhile as opposed to just warming up and throwing to a guy. I thought to myself, 'That didn't feel right.' It shouldn't take me that long to gather my body and throw the ball. That was my first warning sign and as the days went on, I knew it wasn't normal."

Simms eventually was placed on injured reserve. By then, he already had begun to get a handle on his condition by enlisting the help of Dr. Anthony Galea, the Toronto Argonauts' team physician who was able to correctly diagnose his problem and provide exercises to fire up the nerves and muscles that had been damaged by abdominal surgery.

"Everything is really basic exercises," Simms said. Everything is three sets of 15 with five-second holds to stimulate that particular muscle. The way he explained it is most athletes get injured and do steps four, five and six before doing steps one, two and three. There's a lot of balance and isolation and rubber bands and things like that. Normal leg lifts that fire the glute. It's really basic stuff that you don't think you need because you're a highly tuned athlete."

Simms says his velocity is back and his accuracy is also there.

It's true he never seemed to fit Gruden's system. Being left-handed makes it even tougher. But at least Gruden finally has installed the shotgun, a formation Simms thrived in at Texas.

"All these years, I argued to get it," Simms said. "But I'm a big believer in it, I really am. I just think just day and age with the amount of good pass rushers in the league, it's just beneficial for two different reasons. It gets you away from rush. And it's great for pass protection because your running back can go from one side to the other. But when you're dropping back, he's not going to come underneath you. That's the biggest thing, to pick up different blitzes."

The Bucs' quarterback position is unsettled. Jeff Garcia, who will be 38 next season, is the starter. Luke McCown had some good moments. Bruce Gradkowski still is developing. No doubt Gruden will add to the arms race.

"I don't care where I am on the depth chart," Simms said. "It's a crazy position. And really at the end of the day, I'm healthy again and truly just glad I'm going to be ready to go. It's totally different. It's really changed me in a lot of ways. I thought I was grateful to be an NFL player before this but it's brought it up to another level now."

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