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Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden 'confident and optimistic' injured QB Jeff Garcia can start Sunday

Jeff Garcia, getting off a pass against the Panthers on Dec. 8, says of his injury, “I really just have to do my best to block it out. … And hopefully … it won’t even be a question mark.”

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

Jeff Garcia, getting off a pass against the Panthers on Dec. 8, says of his injury, “I really just have to do my best to block it out. … And hopefully … it won’t even be a question mark.”

TAMPA — If quarterback Jeff Garcia's right leg injury won't allow him to move properly in warmups Sunday, it won't leave the Bucs scrambling to name a replacement.

Coach Jon Gruden said Wednesday that he was ''confident and optimistic that Jeff will be the quarterback against the Chargers." But just in case, Gruden is getting reps for you-know-who instead of asking him to go in stone cold.

Oh, Gruden refused to say who would start if Garcia can't go. But given his selection of Brian Griese over Luke McCown on Sunday in Atlanta, it's hard to imagine a different order with the season on the line.

"He looked better. Again, with this injury, it's going to be a day-to-day situation," Gruden said of Garcia, whose right leg is strained between his calf and Achilles' tendon. "We'll do the best we can to get the next guy ready to go.''

Garcia was limited in practice. But he sounded determined to tough it out.

"I really just have to do my best to block it out," Garcia, 38, said. "I really just have to take the approach that I'm going to be me and do whatever I have to do in order to be successful and not think about what I'm trying to overcome. And hopefully at that point on Sunday, it won't even be a question mark.

"But I think for myself, just watching this past Sunday and how difficult that was and frustrating, and not to take anything away from the guys who stepped in because Brian did what he had to do, but … I don't want to be in that situation again. I want to do whatever I can to help this team, and hopefully I am that guy who can do this."

Gruden split the reps in practice and will continue to do so throughout the week. Griese, inactive for two months with tendinitis in his right elbow, did well to complete 70 percent of his passes for 269 yards with one touchdown and an interception in Sunday's 13-10 overtime loss at Atlanta. But he moved the Bucs into the end zone just once in 13 possessions.

"We just split the reps a little bit differently than we did last week and put the game plan together a little differently than we did last week," Gruden said. "There are a lot of things that are different this Wednesday than last Wednesday. We have an obvious injury at the position that's a little bit more serious than, unfortunately, we all thought.''

McCown, who has played in one game, Oct. 12 against Carolina, said he expected to start at Atlanta if Garcia couldn't go, but he was informed about two hours before the game by quarterbacks coach Greg Olson that Griese got the assignment.

"Yeah, I was surprised," McCown said. "But he's the coach; he makes the decisions. He made the decision and felt that was a better way to go. I'm never one to rant and rave and complain. I don't think that does the situation any good."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden 'confident and optimistic' injured QB Jeff Garcia can start Sunday 12/17/08 [Last modified: Friday, December 19, 2008 5:16pm]
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