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Injury bug bites Bucs starters Jeff Garcia, Jovan Haye

LAKE BUENA VISTA — It's the potential for days such as Thursday that keeps Jon Gruden awake at night.

The Bucs coach witnessed his starting quarterback carted off the field with a calf strain. That was compounded when starting defensive tackle Jovan Haye was taken down by a potentially serious groin strain.

Add to that the aches and pains that continue to limit several players — receiver Joey Galloway (groin), center Jeff Faine (back), fullback B.J. Askew (foot) and safety Sabby Piscitelli (knee) — and it's clear why the Bucs are scaling back their practice sessions in ways unprecedented under Gruden. That includes canceling today's morning session.

It's the sort of day that serves as a vivid reminder of how fast a team can go from optimistic to desperate.

"I think it's universal around (NFL camps)," Gruden said. "If you went to everybody's training camp practice, you're going to see eight or nine key players that might leave practice or might not practice. That's football.

"You've got to be able to adjust, and you've got to be able to trust your training staff and do what you think is right for the players because they're the ones that you've got to have to win with on Sunday."

With Bucs officials initially holding their collective breath, Garcia's injury was determined to be not as serious as it appeared. While rolling out during a noncontact scramble drill, he tweaked the muscle and seemed to immediately feel discomfort.

Garcia, 38, was attended to by trainers for about 10 minutes. And when those efforts didn't lead to immediate relief, he was taken by cart to the locker room.

"I think it was just a freak thing," Gruden said. "He was dropping back and changed directions and took off as he always does and felt a little pull in there."

The injuries are beginning to mount, and the Bucs are reacting accordingly.

They abandoned plans for the outdoor portion of Thursday's afternoon practice, instead holding a walk-through in their indoor facility.

"It's that time of year," Gruden said. "Four days in a row in pads … we've had a lot of contact the last couple of days. That's the way it goes."

Just ask Haye, who started all 16 games in 2007 at under tackle. He, arguably, was the most consistent performer the Bucs have had there since the departure of Warren Sapp after the 2003 season.

While Gruden insisted Haye's injury was not serious, others painted a more grim picture.

"I don't know how serious it is, for sure," defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said. "(But) it definitely was a real significant injury."

Coaches inserted veteran backup Ryan Sims and likely will look at a host of others to use in a rotation if Haye, 26, is absent for an extended period.

At quarterback, there is no shortage of depth.

Even though Garcia's injury might not be a long-term concern, it would be no surprise if he missed practice time. Luke McCown and Brian Griese likely will handle the bulk of the snaps with Chris Simms potentially seeing a few.

But Garcia isn't one to sit idly for long.

"He's one of the toughest guys I've ever been around," McCown said. "My brother (the Dolphins' Josh McCown) played last year with a broken toe, a sprained foot and two broken fingers.

"So I know what it is to be a tough guy. Jeff's probably one of the toughest guys I've ever been around."

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at sholder@sptimes.com.

Injury bug bites Bucs starters Jeff Garcia, Jovan Haye 07/31/08 [Last modified: Friday, August 1, 2008 8:13pm]
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