Two weeks ago, Chris Simms says, he didn't know if the Bucs wanted him back.
He thought they might prefer to part ways after he went 0-3 as a starting quarterback and had a splenectomy, ending his season.
"Yeah, because you never know," he said Wednesday. "I mean, if you asked me two weeks ago, I would've been like, 'I don't know what the heck they're going to do.' "
But all that has changed, and Simms is now considering a two-year offer that he described as ''a starting point,'' but significant enough for the 26-year-old to consider remaining with the team that drafted him in the third round in 2003.
"They offered a contract," he said. "There's still a few things that have got to be worked out or whatever. I can't tell you what they are. My agents are working on that. Hopefully everything can work out.
"If we can get it done, without question, without a doubt, I want to be here."
Simms had just finished running a series of wind sprints, his first outdoor workout under the supervision of trainer Todd Toriscelli.
"I feel great. I'm slowly trying to get back in shape," Simms said, wiping sweat from his eyes. "It's (been) about a week and this is really the first time I've run like this outside. It's good, though, it feels real good."
The 9-inch incision from his surgery no longer bothers Simms until he tries to twist his torso in a throwing motion.
"More than anything, it's the twisting I've got to get used to," he said. "And that's what I do when I'm throwing, so I've really got to get used to that. Everything else is coming along good."
It's certainly the best Simms has felt since Sept. 24, when he was sandwiched between Carolina defensive tackle Kris Jenkins and linebacker Thomas Davis in the first quarter of a 26-24 loss.
After the game, he had emergency surgery and on Nov. 3 was placed on injured reserve. Simms signed a one-year, $2.1-million tender last offseason, turning down a long-term offer that included $10-million in guaranteed money hoping to cash in as an unrestricted free agent in 2007.
"Of course, it's nice to know that you're wanted,'' he said of testing his value on the open market. "But this is the place I've been. And it's where people really know me. To know they still want me, it's probably more gratifying than any other place I could go."
After practice Wednesday, coach Jon Gruden refused to provide any insight into reports the Bucs (3-8) had offered Simms a contract.
"I don't have any news to report other than we're looking into his situation. There is no contract that has been signed," he said. "I really don't want to get into his situation. We will do that at the end of the year. Obviously we spent four years together; I think a lot of him. We're going to do everything we can to keep good players on this team, but to speculate in the newspaper right now is not appropriate. We've got more on our mind right now. Bruce Allen will handle that with Tom Condon and whoever the agents are. They'll work it all out at the end of the day."
Condon said in an e-mail he does not comment on negotiations. But Simms made it clear he was not ready to accept the initial offer.
"I think it's just a starting offer for them," he said. "But it's definitely a good start and it definitely should be enough to tell me they want me here."
Gruden was noncommittal.
"These are conversations that we'll have at the end of the year," he said. "I like to invest time in guys who can help us win a championship. Chris Simms is a young guy who's worked hard, but I don't want to sit here and talk about his situation right now. I'm more interested in what we've got to do to win a football game."
Rick Stroud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.