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NEW HEALTH QUESTION FACED

Chris Simms has symptoms of more than a sore arm.

Bucs quarterback Chris Simms has a sore left throwing arm, has to take anti-inflammatories and other medication to get on the field and may be a candidate for injured reserve.

For the second straight day of training camp Monday, Simms had reduced throwing reps and was largely a bystander during 11-on-11 drills.

Simms, 26, still is struggling to regain his form since having surgery to remove his spleen in September. He is suffering from symptoms of irregular proprioception, a kinesthetic sixth sense that allows you to know the position of your arms and legs in relation to your body.

The lack of body awareness makes it particularly difficult when Simms has to turn his torso or throw on the run.

"I'd rather just not comment about the situation right now, honestly," Simms said without elaborating on his condition.

General manager Bruce Allen called the story, first reported on the Times Web site Monday, "completely inaccurate.

"Chris, as all quarterbacks who go through training camp, deals with different soreness," Allen said. "We have some defensive linemen who have sore elbows. Sore shoulders from pounding. But nothing unusual. I saw the report, the headline and all that. It's inaccurate."

Dr. Koco Eaton, the team orthopedist for the Devil Rays, said Monday it's not unusal for patients to suffer irregular proprioception after abdominal or thoracic surgery.

"Those nerves are stretched during surgery,'' Eaton said. "Think of them as electrical wires that have a covering. Those nerves don't take a jolt like that very well. It can take a long time for those nerves to recover. For some people, it can take a couple years before they feel normal."

The sore arm is unusual for Simms, who has been known to throw every day during the off-season without incident.

He took several weeks off this month at his family's home in New Jersey and remained optimistic after Friday's workout. But Simms began to struggle over the weekend and appears to have plummeted to fourth among quarterbacks behind Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown and Bruce Gradkowski.

The Bucs had hoped that Simms would recover in time to compete for a job in training camp. But his injury leaves the team with few options.

Simms signed a two-year, $7-million contract in December, a deal that included a $3-million signing bonus and $5-million in guarantees for 2007.

The Bucs cannot place him on the physically unable to perform list because he passed a physical at the start of training camp, according to Allen.

"'His arm is not an issue," Allen said. "His health is not an issue.

"Does Chris feel like he's at his A game right now? Probably not. He missed a lot of time last year with his injury. But he's been working very hard this offseason and he wants to get back into rhythm, there's no doubt about that. And he will work to get there."

However, Simms' struggles may make it difficult for the Bucs to trade him. He is in his fifth season with the Bucs. If Simms plays the preseason and suffers another injury, the Bucs could be on the hook for his $2-million base salary for 2007.

"It comes back to the same old thing," quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett said. "You got to get healthy and you've got to be healthy when you do get the reps. In the (Organized Team Activities) and in the springtime, when you look back it, we were very pleased. He's (upset) because he's not himself."

Simms went 0-3 as a starter last season with one touchdown and seven interceptions before suffering a ruptured spleen Sept. 24 in a 26-24 loss to Carolina.

He didn't learn of the injury until he was examined after the game and had emergency surgery at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa. Doctors told Simms he was bleeding internally; he had to receive five pints of blood.

Simms spent the rest of the season on injured reserve and wasn't cleared to begin throwing a football until December. It was the same month Simms decided to forgo free agency and sign a contract extension with the Bucs.

Simms said he developed some bad mechanics trying to protect his abdomen and struggled during the offseason workout program that ended in July. His consistency hasn't improved since the start of training camp.

"First of all, he has a very unusual injury," Allen said. "You can't say there's something typical of having your spleen removed. But what he's been able to do, he's proved that physically he's fine. We just have to see if we can't get a little bit better each day."

If Simms' condition doesn't improve, the Bucs might have to add another quarterback sooner than later. They met with Dolphins free agent Daunte Culpepper two weeks ago. Culpepper is serving as his own agent and is seeking a one-year contract.

Times staff writers Stephen F. Holder and Joanne Korth contributed to this report.

What is proprioception?

(pro-pre-o-sepshun)

It's defined as a sense or perception, usually at a subconscious level, of the movements and position of the body and especially its limbs, independent of vision.

Jack Edwards, a clinical nurse III in the operating room at St. Anthony's Hospital, explains it this way:

Imagine standing on one foot with your eyes open, then imagine closing your eyes. Your body, without your vision, knows whether or not your foot is off the ground by tiny receptors throughout your body.

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