LAKE BUENA VISTA — The Bucs conclude three weeks of training camp this morning without their starting quarterback having thrown a pass to his No. 1 receiver during a single drill.
The Jeff Garcia-to-Joey Galloway combination produced six of the eight touchdowns caught by receivers last season, but injuries continue to torpedo both.
Galloway, 36, hasn't engaged in full contact since shoulder surgery in the offseason and hasn't practiced during training camp because of a groin injury.
Garcia, 38, was excused for the first two days of camp, then practiced four days before a right calf injury. He returned Monday but has been limited to individual passing drills.
"I've never been in a camp where you basically go 18 or 19 days and your starting quarterback just gets a few completions and none to your go-to receiver," coach Jon Gruden said.
Garcia still can't run at full speed or complete a practice with the team. He will sit out Sunday's preseason game against the Patriots but hopes to play Aug. 23 against the Jaguars.
"I'm getting better. Every day is a better day," Garcia said. "There's gradual improvement, and it's going to be, I think, to the point where early next week I'll be taking part in all the drills. I'm not favoring it walking.
"And as I get warmed up, I'm starting to run a little bit better. But I'm not near where I need to be to be able to compete in a game yet. But I know that it's coming."
Galloway also has made some progress. Wednesday, he donned shoulder pads for the first time and ran routes on an adjacent practice field, catching passes from a stationary Garcia. Saturday, while the team was playing in Miami, the two worked out together at One Buc Place.
Gruden has found it increasingly hard to conceal his frustration with Galloway's condition. Asked for his reaction to Galloway wearing shoulder pads, Gruden sarcastically said, "I'm thrilled. I'm gushing with thrilled feelings right now."
There's no overstating Galloway's importance.
In each of the past three seasons, he has at least 1,000 yards and led the Bucs in receiving touchdowns. But he has rarely practiced during the regular season, and the team has handled him carefully since a groin pull in the first game of 2005.
"Hopefully, (Galloway is) the only guy I ever coach where we go this route. He's at a different stage of his career. He's not 26. He's 36. And he's also … still a very, very good football player," said Gruden, who has experience dealing with veteran receivers while a coach in Oakland and assistant in Philadelphia.
"And there are some other receivers in pro football that have been idle this summer, too. We did it to a degree with Jerry (Rice) in Oakland. We did it with Irving Fryar in Philadelphia. So no, I don't think it's totally foreign. But you would like to have him out here and just know when you go to sleep at night that Galloway is ready to roll."
Garcia said he hopes to play a significant amount of snaps against the Jaguars. But it's unlikely he would see much action Aug. 28 against the Texans in the preseason finale.
"I feel like getting action in two games, at least, is probably required out of the preseason," he said. "I don't think you need to play in all four or anything like that. But I think to play a big portion of the third game will be important for me, especially against a quality team like Jacksonville.
"Who knows what happens in the Houston game? But I really want to focus on getting myself ready for that (Jacksonville) game and really be able to go out there and compete and find a way to do some positive things."
Despite not having played competitively together since the wild-card playoff loss to the Giants seven months ago, Garcia said he is confident he can re-establish his timing with Galloway.
"I think it'll come back pretty fast," he said. ''I don't think we need four weeks of practice together. I think getting repetitions in practice and, hopefully, one preseason game together will allow us to get a couple more opportunities on the field.
"But more so than that, it's about establishing it on the practice field. As soon as he's ready to go 100 percent and I'm ready to go, I think we'll be fine."
Rick Stroud can be reached at stroud @sptimes.com.