Panthers vs. Buccaneers news and notes

WR Keyshawn Johnson had two first half touchdowns against his former team. But he downplayed the significance of his return to Tampa, Fla. "I didn't come here at three o'clock in the morning and turn the lights on and sit in the stadium," Johnson said.

"It wasn't like that. I didn't drive by One Buc Drive and say, 'I used to be in that building.' It wasn't like that. That's how I am. The past is the past and we're moving toward the future."

--WR Steve Smith made his return for the Panthers, catching seven passes for 112 yards. He was limited because of a hamstring injury. "I just played smart," Smith said. "It's hot, so I just kind of took my time and kind of came in and out so I wouldn't get fatigued and fatigue wouldn't set in and not be a factor in the long haul."

--QB Jake Delhomme threw his first touchdown of the season on Sunday on the first play of the game, a 31-yarder to Keyshawn Johnson.

--TE Mike Seidman left Sunday's game with an apparent knee injury. He did not return and was replaced by Michael Gaines and veteran Kris Mangum.

--RT Jeremy Bridges started for the Panthers less than two weeks after joining the team, but was yanked late in the third quarter after giving up a sack.

--RT Todd Fordham did not start, but did relieve Jeremy Bridges in the fourth quarter.

--LB Dan Morgan (concussion) did not play.

--C Justin Hartwig (groin) did not play.

--SS Shaun Williams (foot) did not play.

--RB Nick Goings (thigh) did not play.

--C Geoff Hangartner started for Hartwig.

--LB Chris Draft started for Dan Morgan.

--SS Colin Branch started for Shaun Williams.

--WLB Na'il Diggs made his first start at weak-side linebacker for the Panthers.

Simms out for the season?

The Bucs may have lost starting quarterback Chris Simms for the season.

Bleeding internally, Simms finished Sunday's 26-24 loss to the Carolina Panthers in which he threw for one touchdown and ran for another.

Simms, 26, was rushed to St. Joseph's Hospital by ambulance after the game where he underwent emergency surgery to have his spleen removed.

He received several blood transfusions and was listed in stable condition Sunday night, according to a statement released by the team. Simms is expected to remain in the hospital for at least several days.

The first indication that Simms was hurting came late in the first quarter after he was hit by Carolina defensive lineman Kris Jenkins. Simms bent over at the waist following an incompletion to Michael Clayton but stepped into the huddle several seconds later.

Near the end of the third quarter, Simms dropped to one knee on the field and was attended to by Bucs trainers and physicians. He was taken to the locker room for what the team announced was cramps and dehydration and given intravenous fluids.

He missed just two offensive plays before jogging back onto the sideline and re-entered the game on the following series.

Simms completed four straight passes and led the Bucs to a go-ahead field goal by Matt Bryant. On his final passing attempt of the drive, Simms was body-slammed by Panthers defensive lineman Al Wallace.

He rose slowly to his feet in obvious pain and handed the ball to Cadillac Williams on third-and-9, setting up the field goal. He attempted just one more pass the rest of the game.

Obviously, you could tell something was wrong because he was kneeling after most of the plays in the fourth quarter," linebacker Derrick Brooks said. "But he's a tough player, a tough kid."

So with the Bucs at 0-3, things just got worse.

Simms will miss at least six weeks before his abdominal injuries heal and could be lost for the season.

Rookie Bruce Gradkowski is the Bucs' No. 2 quarterback and likely will start when the Bucs return from their bye week at New Orleans. Veteran Tim Rattay will move up to No. 2.

The Bucs will be looking for another quarterback. Former Saints quarterback Todd Bouman and former Colts quarterback Shaun King are likely candidates.

Bucs Notes

--QB Bruce Gradkowski will likely get the start in two weeks at New Orleans with the injury to starter Chris Simms. Gradkowski threw one pass and completed for 15 yards.

--CB Brian Kelly did not play Sunday due to a degenerative turf toe injury.

--DE Simeon Rice backed up his claim of taking over a game by forcing two fumbles in the third quarter against Carolina.

--LB Ryan Nece (knee) did not play against Carolina. The Bucs moved MLB Shelton Quarles to Nece's spot and started Barrett Ruud at MLB.

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