TAMPA — Let's call a false start on naming Tampa Bay's starting quarterback.
Coach Raheem Morris said Sunday that he's still undecided on whether Byron Leftwich or Luke McCown will be under center when the Bucs host Dallas in the regular-season opener Sept. 13.
Morris met with his coaches late Sunday but has no timetable for an announcement. He had planned to have a starter in place before Thursday's preseason home opener against Miami.
"It may get extended. It may go to overtime. Initially, you set a deadline. But deadlines are always set to be broken," he said.
"We've still got to meet and evaluate that stuff today. But we'll figure it out, after we have our quarterback meeting … and our evaluation and go through it — myself, Mark (Dominik), (Greg Olson), Jago (Jeff Jagodzinski), Doug Williams, Dennis (Hickey) — we'll figure it out."
Entering Saturday's preseason game at Jacksonville, Leftwich appeared to have a slight edge based on his performance at Tennessee. But McCown narrowed the gap by throwing two touchdowns while Leftwich led the team to a field goal in a 24-23 win.
After two preseason games, McCown's numbers are better than Leftwich's. McCown is 10-of-17 (58.8 percent) for 70 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating is 107.2. Leftwich is 12-of-26 (46.2 percent) for 124 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions for a passer rating of 73.2.
McCown led his team to 14 points — all against the Jags. Leftwich led the Bucs to 13.
"The decision was tough from the beginning," Morris said. "Like we talked about early in the OTA (organized team activities) days, Josh Freeman decided he wanted to play. He wanted to be part of the competition, so that made it tough. You saw Josh Johnson (Aug. 15) and at the end of training camp say, 'I want to play, too.' You've seen Leftwich come on … then (Saturday) night, Luke, when he got in the game … said, 'Don't forget about me.'
"The decision was tough all along. With guys playing better like that, you love that. That's what we wanted. We wanted competition, and we're getting it."
For most of the offseason and training camp, Morris indicated the battle was primarily between Leftwich and McCown. But he said Sunday that nobody should assume that the player who is not named the starter will serve as No. 2.
"There's no givens," he said. "There's going to be a first guy picked, there's going to be a second guy picked, there's going to be a third guy picked. With the way they're playing, at some point I said I wasn't going to keep four quarterbacks. Shoot, I don't even know if that's even true anymore.
"So we've got to go back and look at it. We've got to evaluate everything. … The younger guys played well."
Crowell out for year
Linebacker Angelo Crowell, 28, will miss the season with a torn biceps muscle.
The Bills free agent, who missed all of 2008 with a knee injury, had been unable to participate much in training camp because of a hamstring strain.
Morris said Quincy Black is basically considered the starting strongside linebacker.
More injuries: Receiver Michael Clayton aggravated his hamstring in the first half Saturday and took himself out of the game. Morris said he will not play Thursday against the Dolphins. … Running back Kareem Huggins has a knee injury that could keep him out for a few weeks. … Cornerback Elbert Mack has an ankle injury that will likely force him to miss Thursday's game. … Center Jeff Faine (groin) and receiver Kelly Campbell (shoulder) are expected to return this week. … Safeties Will Allen (shoulder) and Donte Nicholson are questionable.
Rick Stroud can be reached at email@example.com