Bucs face tough decision on hurt Simms
By RICK STROUD
LAKE BUENA VISTA - Quarterback Chris Simms has a sore left throwing arm, has to take anti-inflammatories and other medication to get on the field and may be a candidate for injured reserve.
For the second straight day of training camp Monday, Simms had reduced throwing reps and was largely a bystander during the Bucs' 11-on-11 drills.
Simms, 26, still is experiencing complications from surgery to remove his spleen last September. He is suffering from symptoms similar to those of proprioception, a kinesthetic sixth sense that allows you to know the position of your arms and legs in relation to your body.
The lack of body awareness makes it particularly difficult when Simms has to turn his torso or throw on the run.
""I'd rather just not comment about the situation right now, honestly,'' Simms said without elaborating on his condition.
However, general manager Bruce Allen called the Times report Monday 'completely inaccurate.'
""Chris, as all quarterbacks who go through training camp, deals with different soreness,'' Allen said. ""We have some defensive linemen who have sore elbows. Sore shoulders from pounding. But nothing unusual. I saw the report, the headline and all that. It's inaccurate.''
The sore arm is unusual for Simms, who has been known to throw every day during the off-season without incident.
He took several weeks off in July at his family's home in New Jersey and remained optimistic after Friday's workout. But Simms began to struggle over the weekend and appears to have plummeted to fourth among quarterbacks behind Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown and Bruce Gradkowski.
The Bucs had hoped that Simms would recover in time to compete for a job in training camp. But his injury leaves the team with few options.
Simms signed a two-year, $7-million contract in December, a deal that included a $3-million signing bonus and $5-million in guarantees for 2007.
The Bucs cannot place him on the Physically Unable to Perform list because he passed a physical at the start of training camp, according to Allen.
"'His arm is not an issue,'' Allen said. ""His health is not an issue.
""Does Chris feel like he's at his A game right now? Probably not. He missed a lot of time last year with his injury. But he's been working very hard this off-season working very hard and he wants to back into rhythm, there's no doubt about that. And he will work to get there.''
However, Simms' struggles may make it difficult for the Bucs to trade him. He is in his fifth season with the Bucs. If Simms plays the preseason and suffers another injury, the Bucs could be on the hook for his $2-million base salary for 2007.
""It comes back to the same old thing,'' said quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett. ""You got to get healthy and you've got to be healthy when you do get the reps. In the (Organized Team Activities) and in the springtime, when you look back it, we were very pleased. He's p----d because he's not himself.''
Simms went 0-3 as a starter last season with one touchdown and seven interceptions before suffering a ruptured spleen in the Bucs' 26-24 loss to Carolina Sept. 24.
He didn't learn of the injury until he was examined after the game and underwent emergency surgery at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa. Doctors told Simms he was bleeding internally and had to receive five pints of blood.
Simms spent the rest of the season on injured reserve and wasn't cleared to begin throwing a football until December. It was the same month that Simms decided to forgo free agency and sign a contract extension with the Bucs.
Simms said he developed some bad mechanics trying to protect his abdomen and struggled during the off-season workout program that ended in July. His consistency hasn't improved since the start of training camp.
""First of all, he has a very unusual injury,'' Allen said. ""You can't say there's something typical of having your spleen removed. But what he's been able to do, he's proved that physically he's fine. We just have to see if we can't get a little bit better each day.''
In March, the Bucs signed Garcia as a free agent and traded for Denver Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer. But Plummer, 32, says he is retired and has been placed on the Did Not Report list by the Bucs.
If Simms' condition doesn't improve, the Bucs may be forced to add another quarterback sooner than later. They met with Dolphins free agent Daunte Culpepper two weeks ago. But Culpepper is serving as his own agent and is seeking a one-year contract.