Garcia practices some; decision on Sunday

Published: November 30th, 2007
By Bucs Beat | - St. Petersburg Times and tbt*

Garcia Injured quarterback Jeff Garcia returned to practice on a limited basis Friday, the first positive sign that he might be well enough to play Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.

It's the first time Garcia has felt well enough to participate in practice since suffering a severe lower back contustion against the Redskins last Sunday.

"I'm getting better and taking steps in the right direction,'' Garcia said. "I feel a lot better than I thought I would.''

Coach Jon Gruden said he was encouraged by Garcia's progress but said the Bucs have prepared someone to replace him under center if necessary.

"I don't know (if he will play),'' Gruden said. "He did some things today, which is very encouraging. He's getting better, so I don't really know. But I'm very optimistic after today.

"He practiced. He showed up and practiced, which is a huge step in the right direction. He's not 100 percent right now but he's closing in on getting well enough to play.

"Maybe in another 48 hours he'll make more great improvement and be ready to go. We're optimistic, yet we've prepared ourselves to go in another direction if we have to.''

It's no longer a secret that Luke McCown, the team's No. 3 quarterback the past 10 games, is likely who would start Sunday if Garcia is unable to play. McCown took the majority of snaps with the first-team offense in practice this week while Bruce Gradkowski ran the scout squad offense.

"I don't really want to announce that,'' Gruden said. "No disrespect to anybody. But we've prepared two young guys to play. I just don't want to say anything until I no Jeff's official status. We'll go from there.''

Gradkowski went 9-of-19 for 100 yards in relief of Garcia but failed to produced touchdowns on three of the four fumble recoveries by the Bucs' defense. Gruden said either Gradkowski or McCown would be better prepared to play because of the reps they received in practice this week.

"We'll be better prepared,'' Gruden said. "You're idle for 11 or 12 weeks. And you know, you sometimes put a gameplan together for a quarterback, too. You don't necessarily run the same plays with you at quarterback or if I was at quarterback or he was at quarterback. A lot of things go into that. But he'll be better prepared because he's had an opportunity to practice.''

(Times photo - Brian Cassella. Click to enlarge.)