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Bucs offense grounded by a shaky Simms

It's not his arm strength or mobility or intelligence that is most impressive about Chris Simms.

There's just one trait that proves the second-year pro has what it takes to be the Bucs' quarterback. He can pick himself up off the ground.

Simms struggled in his second NFL start, throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble in a 12-7 loss to the Cardinals.

But he was sacked four times and spent as much time on the turf at Sun Devil Stadium as the hash marks.

Asked what Simms did best Sunday, Bucs coach Jon Gruden didn't hesitate.

"He got up off the ground," Gruden said. "He faced adversity head on and I think that's a great start. Look at Eli Manning and some of these great quarterbacks. You know, some of them get hit in the head early.

"He's a tough guy. I think he's got a lot to learn. Obviously, this was a good experience for him. He does have talent. This is an extremely tough defense to go up against."

Simms finished 16-of-32 passing for 224 yards, including a 75-yard catch and run to rookie Michael Clayton for a touchdown.

But he overthrew an open Earnest Graham, ended the game with an interception and lost a fumble on the quarterback-center exchange. Gruden was particularly irked by Simms' fumble, his third in three extended appearances this season.

"I've never had that problem," Gruden said. "We lost the Seattle game, basically, fumbling a snap on the 1-foot line. If it's a problem with Chris Simms, it is a real problem for me. I've never been associated with that and I won't be. Whether they run me out of here or not, we will not allow that kind of play. The center-quarterback exchange is the most fundamental play in football, and I'll be damned if it's going to be tolerated here.

"That does not happen at the Chamberlain-Leto game. It's not happening here."

It didn't help that Simms was forced to start against a defense that thrives on an array of blitzes that can confuse a veteran quarterback.

"I just had to make some tight throws," Simms said. "There were a few throws I had to make real tight. So I just missed some throws that I definitely could hit.

"I think it's a challenge for any offense, let alone a young quarterback. I watched Trent Dilfer last week and Chris Chandler, they've been in the league 10-12 years, maybe more, and they struggled as well. It's just a good defense and we didn't make the plays we had to."

Simms was forced to throw the ball away on several occasions and held on too long on others. In the second half, he was sacked on third and 4 from the 26, pushing the Bucs out of field-goal range.

"There is some good things he did. He's tough, he does have an arm and he has some mobility," Gruden said of the 6-foot-4, 220-pound 24-year-old. "He needs to start using a little bit of it."

Despite his performance, Simms believes he will be given an opportunity to win the starting job .

"Sure, I do. I know I'm going to be here and I know I'm pretty talented, so hopefully I'll have a shot."

QUARTERBACK DEBUTS

How Bucs have fared in their first season at quarterback:

YEAR G COM ATT YDS TD INT

Chris Simms 2004 5 42 73 467 1 3

Shaun King 1999 6 89 146 875 7 4

Scott Milanovich 1996 1 2 3 9 0 0

Trent Dilfer 1994 5 38 82 433 1 6

Casey Weldon 1993 3 6 11 55 0 1

Craig Erickson 1992 6 15 26 121 0 0

Jeff Carlson 1991 3 31 65 404 1 6

Vinny Testaverde 1987 6 71 165 1,081 5 6

Steve Young 1985 5 72 138 935 3 8

Doug Williams 1978 10 73 194 1,170 7 8

Jeb Blount 1977 5 37 89 522 0 7

Randy Hedberg 1977 7 25 90 244 0 10

Parnell Dickinson 1976 8 15 39 210 1 5

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