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During a relaxed hour-long session with the media at the Breakers Resort, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach gave the impression that he's not worried whether quarterback Chris Simms shows up for voluntary off-season workouts.
"It's a voluntary program so I don't monitor who's there and who's not there," Gruden said, making his first public comments about Simms.
"If he (Simms) volunteers to be there, we'll work with him," Gruden said. "If he doesn't volunteer to be there, we'll work with the other four."
The only mandatory workouts before training camp are the Bucs' mini-camp workouts in June.
Simms — who has attended the Bucs' voluntary offseason program every year in the past — chose last week to continue to work out on his own, a move that could signal that Simms believes he's not part of the team's long-term plans.
Gruden didn't bite when asked if it was time for Simms to move on.
"It's hard to accommodate everyone's wants and wishes," Gruden said. "We paid him seven-and-a-half million dollars and we want to win. He's part of our plans and we want him to compete and we want him to be healthy. So we want everyone to be happy — don't get me wrong. But we're going to keep our best quarterbacks. I promise you that."
Gruden made no commitments to any of his six quarterbacks on Tuesday, but made it clear that he expects to see Simms at some point, saying that he's heard that Simms is now completely healthy.
Yes, it's six quarterbacks, and Gruden even alluded to his collection on Wednesday.
"You see I collect quarterbacks," Gruden said with a wink and a slim grin. "I have one that hasn't played in two years (Simms) and I have one that's retired (Jake Plummer). You guys just like writing that."
Plummer retired last March, right after the Bucs dealt a seventh-round pick for him.
Simms hasn't played since he suffered a ruptured spleen against Carolina in September of 2006. Simms needed an emergency splenectomy after the game and missed the entire 2006 season.
Simms returned — perhaps too early — last season and struggled to regain his pre-injury form. At one point Simms missed 11-on-11 drills for five straight days of training camp and reports circulated that Simms suffered from an unusual malady called proprioception.
Bucs general manager Bruce Allen refuted the reports during camp, and despite the fact that Simms played just one series in the preseason the Bucs kept him on the active roster until October, when they placed him on injured reserve to make room for a running back.
Simms told the media in January that he unknowingly skipped several parts of his recovery and worked with a Canadian Football League trainer to help re-energize the muscles around his surgical scar, which turned out to be the chief impediment to his recovery.
Back then, he declared himself completely healthy.
"I think the one thing the last month (December) has proven to me — and trust me, there were times when I said, ‘I don't know if I'll ever feel the way I felt before the injury — is that I've been throwing a lot and I have no reason to believe that I won't be my old self," Simms said in January.
Gruden also declared the courtship of Plummer "over." The Bucs have tried to lure Plummer out of retirement unsuccessfully for a year. Gruden called Plummer one of the "top quarterbacks on the planet."
"Unfortunately he's decided to stay in retirement," Gruden said. "It's not official until it's official, until you turn the papers in or he has a press conference. It'll be hard to find him for the press conference. We have (talked to him) but it's over and I hate to keep talking about it and stirring it up. We've tried. I would love to coach Jake Plummer at some point. It's a shame it didn't work out."
Did you miss Matthew Postins' second Buccaneers-only Mock Draft? Click here to read how Postins shook up the Buccaneers' draft strategy.
What players are the Buccaneers looking at during Pro Days? Find out in the latest edition of Pro Day Rumblings by clicking here.
The Buccaneers could surprise everyone by drafting a quarterback this year. Michigan's Chad Henne could be on the radar. Click here to get Henne's perspective on his recent workout with the Bucs.
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Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. An award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers Association, he appears frequently on Scot Brantley Show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1470-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.