While Buccaneers starting quarterback Brad Johnson continues to nurse the lower back bruise that kept him sidelined for the team's game against Pittsburgh last Monday night, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden decided Wednesday that Rob Johnson will start Sunday night if Brad Johnson is unable to go.
Gruden said Rob Johnson gives the Bucs a better chance to win than QB Shaun King, who started against Pittsburgh in place of Brad Johnson, but was benched midway through the third quarter due to a woeful outing.
"Brad Johnson didn't take any reps with the offense, although he did take some reps with the service squad," Gruden said on Wednesday. "His status is mildly improved. Rob Johnson will be the quarterback in Chicago if Brad can't go. Rob did take most of the reps today.
"We just think right now that Rob probably gives us the best chance to win and for that reason we will go with Rob."
Gruden said he based his decision to move Rob Johnson back to the No. 2 quarterback spot on both backup quarterbacks' performances against the Steelers on Monday night. King completed just 9-of-26 passes for 73 yards. Rob Johnson completed 12-of-18 passes for 159 yards and he engineered the team's only scoring drive of the game.
"We still like Shaun King, but we thought Rob moved our team in the game the other night," said Gruden. "It's a tough decision, but we've got to make a decision and we are going to go with Rob."
If Rob Johnson starts on Sunday, it would be his second start for the Bucs this season. Johnson started in place of Brad Johnson on Oct. 27 against the Carolina Panthers. Although Tampa Bay failed to score a touchdown, the Bucs defeated the Panthers in that contest, 12-9.
Rob Johnson has completed 65.1 percent of his passes for 402 yards and he's tossed one touchdown and one interception this season. Rob Johnson said he was excited about the possibility of starting another game for the Bucs.
"I'm just happy to be in the mix again," said Rob Johnson. "I got an opportunity early in the year and we got a win. That's all we're hoping for this week. It's going to be cold and it really doesn't matter to me. I'm just glad to get another start."
Rob Johnson was demoted to the No 3 quarterback spot after Tampa Bay's 21-7 win against Green Bay on Nov. 24. While he's seen action in four games this season, Rob Johnson has been sacked 14 times, including five against Pittsburgh last Monday night. Gruden said Rob Johnson's tendency to take sacks has come as a result of him trying to make plays.
"He's a very talented guy and he proved that the other night," Gruden said. "He made some great throws. I think the big thing with Rob is that every play doesn't need to be on SportsCenter, you know what I mean. Just cool it down a little bit and let the game come to you. I think he is trying so hard to make every play a positive that sometimes he forgets what the defense is saying to him and I think he would agree with that. But he hasn't played a lot this season and it's very difficult late in the season to go out there and play when these games are so important."
Tampa Bay will likely make a game-time decision on whether or not Brad Johnson will start against Chicago.
"Hopefully sometime during the day Sunday in Champaign, we ought to probably know before that," Gruden said when asked when the team would know if Brad Johnson would play Sunday. "If Brad doesn't improve quite a bit, it will be Rob Johnson. We just hope that Brad gets well. Although the injury is not a fracture or anything that has clearly showed up on an MRI exam, this is the toughest guy that arguably I have been around ever. He just is sore and it's frustrating him and just taking time to heal."
Not only are the Bucs concerned about the possibility of Brad Johnson missing its game against the Bears, but they're also worried that their starting quarterback's back injury could sideline him for a playoff game.
"I'm concerned," Gruden said of Brad Johnson's back injury. "I think when you have a back injury and it lingers and it doesn't subside and it doesn't heal, it is a concern, very, very concerned."
In other injury news, Tampa Bay defensive tackle Warren Sapp did not practice Wednesday. Like Brad Johnson, Sapp is listed as questionable on the team's injury report, which is listed below.
"Warren Sapp did not practice today," Gruden said. "We think he's got a chance to play, but we rested him today and maybe tomorrow and we'll see how he comes along."
TAMPA BAY INJURY REPORT:
Probable (Player has a 75 percent chance of playing)
Questionable (Player has a 50 percent chance of playing)
Doubtful (Player has a 25 percent chance of playing)
Out (Player will not play)
QB Brad Johnson (back) – Questionable
DT Warren Sapp (knee) – Questionable
LB Shelton Quarles (ankle) - Probable
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