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No shift for Bucs at QB spot just yet

After one of Bruce Gradkowski's three interceptions against the Steelers on Sunday, Bucs coach Jon Gruden playfully thumped his rookie quarterback in the chest when he came to the sideline.

A few more picks and Gruden has promised to knock him from the lineup.

"I'm not sure which one that was, but he hits me in the chest a lot," Gradkowski said Monday. "Hey, after a couple of those decisions last night, he should've punched me in the face for it.

"And contemplating a switch? Hey. Being 3-9, you kind of have to look at everything, so that's understandable. ... Throwing interceptions (is) uncalled for, especially two of the ones I threw. I'd put myself on the bench if I keep doing that."

Gruden nearly did. But after considering starting Tim Rattay, the coach reviewed film from the Bucs' 20-3 loss Monday morning and decided to stick with Gradkowski.

"We obviously looked at the film all morning and I don't foresee a quarterback change, although if we continue to throw interceptions, that will be an obvious change that we will need to make," Gruden said. "There were some things that Bruce did well in the game and there are some things that he obviously didn't do well. We had five balls dropped, some game-changing drops.

"We have to play a lot better as an offensive football team. The quarterback obviously gets a lot of the credit when things go good and when things go bad. Outside of the two or three interceptions, the two regular field interceptions that he had, he did do some things that show promise."

Part of the reason for staying with Gradkowski is that he isn't getting a lot of help. The Bucs dropped five passes Sunday, including one by receiver Michael Clayton that would've been a touchdown.

Running back Cadillac Williams also had a rough day. He rushed 11 times for 27 yards, had two false starts, lost a fumble and dropped a pass that would have sustained a drive at midfield.

At 3-9, the Bucs are assured of a third losing season in four years.

But Gruden says the present struggles will pay off in the future.

"Not only for obvious reasons, but for your whole mental makeup,'' Gruden said.

And nobody is getting more of an education than Gradkowski, who is 3-6 as a starter with nine touchdowns and nine interceptions while leading his team to just 11 touchdowns.

Gradkowski also has been too quick to abandon the pocket with the intent of running, rather than stepping up or sliding outside to keep the rhythm of the play alive.

"Sometimes the best way to describe this is you need to keep the ball in the throwing position, move laterally and complete your read, but I think sometimes with the congestion around him he is quick to get out of there and the rhythm of the passing play is off and our receivers can't find him,'' Gruden said. "He was quick to get out of there (Sunday), particularly at the end of the first half in the two-minute drill. There are some good looks there on a couple of those patterns that are obvious.

"At some point, we've got to make these plays and there's got to be a little feel-good about it. Hey, a nice first down. But guys come off the field and say, 'Oh my God, how do we do that?' We've got a wide-open look to make it a 10-7 game, the ball's right on the money, it's a 41-yard touchdown - we get nothing.

"There are some plays now that we need to step up and make in the National Football League. That's not going to change. If we're not going to make them, we're not going to win."