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Bucs' Garcia out against Atlanta

POSTED: September 14, 2008 5:02 a.m.

TAMPA, Fla. — An ankle sprain put Jeff Garcia's name on the injury report. A shaky performance in Tampa Bay's season opener cost the four-time Pro Bowl quarterback his starting job this week against Atlanta.

Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden said Wednesday that Brian Griese will start against the Falcons on Sunday.

And it's not just because of the injury Garcia suffered during the fourth quarter of a 24-20 loss to New Orleans.

The 38-year-old Garcia was not sharp against the Saints after missing most of training camp and the preseason with a strained right calf. His preparation for the Saints also was affected by a jammed pinkie finger on his throwing hand.

"Jeff right now is not himself," Gruden said. "We're going to give him a week off and try to get him ready to go. Brian Griese is a guy who's had a good training camp. We're going to give Brian the ball and rally around him. Hopefully Jeff can get back ready to roll soon."

Garcia signed with Tampa Bay before last season and helped the Bucs go 9-7 and win the NFC South for the second time in three years. The Bucs lost in the first round of the playoffs, and little has gone right for him since.

During the offseason, the quarterback expressed unhappiness over the lack of progress on a contract extension. Then Gruden angered him by pursuing a trade for Brett Favre during the opening week of training camp.

He injured his calf early in camp and sat out three of four preseason games.

"It's been a very interesting last few months, obviously. He had the injury that occurred late last season, he had a prolonged calf injury," Gruden said, referring to a back injury that slowed Garcia the latter part of 2007.

"I just think right now, we've studied everything he's done. I really believe in this guy as a quarterback. Right now, he's not the same guy that he was, and I want him to be that. That's all I'm going to say until I see the ball thrown with crisp, accurate velocity, a confident swagger. We're going to let him sit out a week and hopefully he can get back soon."

Garcia was not available for comment.

It remains unclear when the quarterback was hurt against New Orleans, and the Bucs have not specified which ankle was sprained. Garcia remained in the game until the final minute, throwing an interception that stopped a potential winning drive on fourth down from the Saints 24.

In Griese, Gruden is turning to another veteran who has had success in his offense. The 11th-year pro helped the Bucs to a 5-1 start in 2005 before suffering a season-ending knee injury.

He signed with Chicago as free agent the following offseason and spent two years with the Bears, who traded him to Tampa Bay in March.

"Brian did a lot here if you consider all the elements. He did not have this offensive line when he played here. He did not have some of the offensive weapons that we possess now," Gruden said. "From a statistical and functional standpoint he did some great things here. He won a lot of games for us. He's a guy that will lead us this Sunday, and we have to rally around him."

Griese, 33, is excited about the opportunity. He started 16 of 17 games he appeared in with Tampa Bay in 2004 and 2005, throwing for 3,768 yards, 27 touchdowns and 19 interceptions before he was injured.

"When I left here in 2005 I really had unfinished business, the way I look at it. It really hurt when I was injured and didn't have a chance to come back," Griese said.

"I knew we had a good team and that stung. Ever since that point I wanted the opportunity to come back and finish that business. That's how I'm going to approach this, as a continuation of what I got started, and hopefully go out and play the best that I can play."

Gruden broke the news to him Tuesday, and Griese said he also spoke with Garcia.

"We had a frank conversation, and obviously he's disappointed. And I can understand," Griese said. "I can relate with Jeff. I've been in that position."

Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks, who started 193 consecutive games, remains questionable against the Falcons. He strained his right hamstring against New Orleans and did not practice Wednesday.

He was upbeat before practice, smiling and answering questions about everything except his status for Sunday.

"Unfortunately for me, I'm under strict orders. ... I was told by my head coach not to really go into details about my situation and my injury," he said. "We'll know on game day whether I'll be ready or not."



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