Garcia will likely start Sunday
A good water cooler bet: Jeff Garcia will quarterback the Bucs on Sunday.
Garcia took most of the reps in practice today -- and likely will Thursday -- and is preparing to start against the Carolina Panthers while Brian Griese recovers from elbow and shoulder injuries he suffered in the Bucs 16-13 loss to the Broncos.
Griese said an MRI revealed no structural damage from the hit he sustained in the third quarter from cornerback Champ Bailey.
"I haven't tried to throw and don't expect to try today,'' Griese said. "I'll continue to get the treatment on it and then later in the week address that.
"I couldn't give you a percentage (of playing).''
But following practice Wednesday, coach Jon Gruden all but confirmed Garcia would be the starter, with Luke McCown the probable backup.
""You know what? If you can't throw, you have a hard time playing,'' Gruden said of Griese. "Again, I don't want to make any concrete statements until we get a chance to meet and see how Brian is and how Jeff feels and the whole crew of quarterbacks.''
Garcia said he was excited about the chance to play again.
"For me, it's an exciting time because I feel like there's an opportunity that might be presented there,'' Garcia said. "I just want to be able to get back in and be the guy I was for this team last year, the guy that I feel I'm capable of being. If I'm given that opportunity, hopefully I can run with it and make the most out of it.''
Garcia, who engineered a 90-yard drive for the Bucs' only touchdown last Sunday, said he has recovered from calf, ankle and pinkie injuries and has benefited from rest and practice time.
"I hate to refer back to health and practice time, but I think since that first game of the season, I've had a lot more practice because of what went on in training camp with the calf,'' Garcia said. "I'm a lot more healthy at this time. I'm not favoring anything. I feel the speed is back, the explosion within the pocket, the mobility within the pocket. So those things are definitely better than going into the first week. Not to say that was an excuse, because it wasn't.''
Gruden said Garcia's health is no longer an issue and that will make him more effective this time around.
"Yeah, I do, I think he is coming back and that's a good sign,'' Gruden said. "If you're Jeff Garcia and you play the way he does, his mobility and creative play-making is a big part of his style. I agree with him. I think he looks much better in the pocket and that's his game.''