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Simms okay with doing QB shuffle

Two days after making his NFL debut, Bucs quarterback Chris Simmswas accepting of Jon Gruden's decision to stay with veteran Brad Johnson as the starter Sunday night at Oakland.

"Coach does what's best for the team and I'm going always to trust in his decision," said Simms, who spent his off day Tuesday addressing the Robinson High school junior varsity as part of the Play it Smart program, which emphasizes the relationship between athletics and academics.

"I'm sure there's a little factor that I'm a young guy and we're going to the Black Hole. Brad's been the starting quarterback here for a long time and he really has played great, whatever everybody wants to say."

Against the Seahawks, Simms replaced Johnson early in the second quarter after Johnson threw an interception and failed to move the offense in four possessions.

Simms, a third-round draft pick in 2003, was 21 of 32 for 175 yards and led a pair of 71-yard drives that resulted in field goals. But he fumbled on third and goal at the 1 and threw an interception in the final minute of a 10-6 loss.

Simms reviewed the film Monday.

"I thought I played good in some spots and made a lot of good plays and had a few bonehead plays," he said. "My fumble and the interception at the end of the game are something I'm going to have to live with, and I'll definitely learn from it."

Gruden named Johnson the starter Monday, but Simms is confident he will get another chance.

"It will happen one of these days," he said. "I just have to be ready to go in there and be successful."

SAPP SPEAKS: Not only will the Bucs face one of the NFL's most hostile crowds Sunday night, but also former teammate Warren Sapp. The verbal volley begins with Sapp's Q&A in the issue of Sports Illustrated that hits newsstands today.

On how the Bucs treated him: "Contract honored. No more no less. I had nine great seasons in Tampa. I made the all-rookie team, I made seven straight Pro Bowls and I collected $40-million. There's no animosity. The only thing that sets me on edge is that for all the time me and Gruden spent face to face, he didn't have the n--- to say, "Warren, you just ain't in our plans anymore.' I would have took that a lot better than no call at all."

On living in San Francisco instead of Oakland: "Why would I not live in the city? It's like New York instead of New Jersey. It's a reverse commute, too. The best part about it is the food. There's a sushi spot in the Castro I like. I want to be treated like every other customer. It's why I go to sushi restaurants. They don't care who I am."

On whether he's over the hill: "How can I be? Any O-line that's playing the Raiders, I guarantee they put 99 on the board and say this is the man we must block. That's why I play, the respect of my peers. Whether I'll get into the Hall of Fame is for someone else to decide. I'm just going to keep laying the bricks in the road and hope the road leads to Canton."

UNITED FRONT: The defense has allowed only two touchdowns in two games, and technically, has outscored the offense one touchdown to none.

But even if members of the Bucs defense recognize the team won't win until the offense starts putting the ball in the end zone, they insist there is no division on the team.

"I think that divisiveness that you're talking about has been talked about here in Tampa for maybe 30 years now," Gruden said. "The offense sits over here, the defense sits over there. I don't like to hear that You find out who your real friends are when you get beat in a humbling, humiliating fashion."

Gruden said he, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and the players would not allow a split in the team.

"If we have to, I'll put a couple defensive players on offense this week," Gruden said. "To spread some of that spark around, I'll do that. We have a hell of a football team."

General manager Bruce Allen said there is no problem in the locker room.

"This is a very united team," Allen said. "You feel that everywhere in the locker room. There are some personal issues that every player has within the locker room over the last 72 hours that are very unique and are being dealt with in a supportive manner and are special. I don't see that. This defense is so proud with what it's accomplished, and we're proud of that."

_ JOANNE KORTH, ROGER MILLS,

Times staff writers

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