TAMPA — Brian Griese never planned on seeing Tampa Bay from his rearview mirror.
Sure, he suffered a serious knee injury and the team wanted to commit to Chris Simms as its starting quarterback.
But Griese was stunned by his release two years ago and was even more perplexed when the Bucs traded a sixth-round pick to Chicago for him in March.
To Griese, 33, this was the NFL equivalent of giving away his career in a yard sale then paying to get it back.
Coach Jon Gruden said Griese was unhappy about the trade initially.
"He gave me a hard time," Gruden said. "He's a sarcastic guy. I took a few punches from him."
But after letting his emotions cool over the past few months, Griese says he's happy to have returned to the Bucs.
"I was very frank with them," Griese said, recalling when the Bucs asked him to take a pay cut after the 2005 season. "I told them, 'Look, I have a contract, and I don't want to leave.' And they had different ideas.
"It was tough to go out like that with an injury that early in the season, especially with us being 5-1. There's no doubt about it that I have unfinished business here. I felt very comfortable and never really wanted to leave here. And so two years later, it's good to be back. I'm off of my hiatus and ready to go back to work."
Griese is expected to battle Luke McCown for the No. 2 spot behind starter Jeff Garcia.
In two seasons with the Bucs, Griese completed 345 of 510 passes (67.6 percent) for 3,768 yards, 27 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. In 2004, he completed 69.3 percent of his passes and finished with a 97.5 passer efficiency rating.
But after jump-starting the Bucs to a 5-1 record in 2005, Griese tore ligaments in his knee and was placed on season-ending injured reserve.
Simms went 6-5 down the stretch, showing enough promise to be anointed the quarterback of the future. The Bucs, who wanted Griese to take a reduced salary to remain, saved about $4.5-million of salary cap room by releasing him. And the Bears wound up signing him to a five-year contract.
In Chicago, Griese could not unseat struggling starter Rex Grossman, particularly after the former Florida star led Chicago to a Super Bowl appearance in 2006. Griese completed 179 of 294 (60.8 percent) for 2,023 yards, 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in two seasons with the Bears. "It wasn't necessarily a system that fit my strengths and what I do well," he said. "And so it's probably best that we both parted ways."
Griese says he is not concerned about the Bucs' depth chart. Tampa Bay has seven quarterbacks on the roster, including the retired Jake Plummer.
"When I came here (in 2004) … I was a third-string guy," Griese said. "Brad Johnson was here, and Chris Simms was here. And nothing was guaranteed. I just came in and approached it like a rookie, tried to learn as much as I could and go out there and perform every snap that I have the opportunity. My role is no different now.
"It's good to be wanted. I wish they had wanted me two years ago … but that's the business. And you can't have grudges in this business, can't burn bridges. At the end of the day, we want the same goal, and that's the only thing that matters."