The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' promising season is entrusted -- at least for now -- to Chris Simms, the talented but unproven third-year pro who's yet to demonstrate that he can add the necessary polish to his game to be a winning quarterback in the NFL.
But the Buccaneers gave themselves some insurance if Simms falters by trading yesterday for former San Francisco starter Tim Rattay. The move came two days after Buccaneers quarterback Brian Griese suffered a knee injury in a win over the Miami Dolphins that apparently will end his season. Griese reportedly suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Tampa Bay improved to 5-1 after Sunday's triumph. But now Coach Jon Gruden must turn to Simms, the son of former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms who was a third-round draft pick by the Buccaneers out of the University of Texas in 2003 and has played in six games over the past two seasons, with two starts.
Rattay eventually could become an alternative. He started nine games last season and four more in the early stages of this season. But first-year 49ers coach Mike Nolan just benched the six-year veteran in favor of prized rookie Alex Smith, and the Buccaneers sent a 2006 draft pick to San Francisco for Rattay before yesterday's NFL trading deadline.
Rattay now must familiarize himself with his new surroundings. Gruden had said Monday that familiarity with the Buccaneers' offensive system wouldn't be the determining factor in deciding which quarterback to acquire.
"My wife is familiar with our system," Gruden said, adding soon thereafter, "We're not interested, Cindy." . . .
San Diego made two deals before the afternoon trading deadline. The Chargers sent guard Toniu Fonoti to Minnesota for a draft choice, and traded quarterback Cleo Lemon to Miami for quarterback A.J. Feeley and a draft pick.
Bruschi Ready to Return
Tedy Bruschi watched the New England Patriots struggle in the early stages of this season without him and cornerback Ty Law, who had been released in the offseason, and without departed assistant coaches Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis. He watched the club lose safety Rodney Harrison to a season-ending knee injury. But that, the Pro Bowl linebacker maintained, did not influence his decision to try to return to football this season after suffering a mild stroke in February.
"I couldn't let how the team was doing affect my mind-set on my rehabilitation," Bruschi said during Monday's news conference, at which he announced that he planned to practice today.
What did affect his decision, he said, was his ability to complete his workouts, to run and jump and lift weights as proficiently as he'd done before. Every doctor with whom he consulted told him that he was healthy enough to return to football, said Bruschi, who reportedly underwent surgery to repair a hole in his heart that is thought to have caused his stroke.
He stressed that, according to his doctors, he won't be at any greater risk than any other player on the field when he resumes playing. He and his wife, Heidi, made the decision for him to return this season when they stopped recently at one of their favorite breakfast spots on their way home from a doctor visit.
Bruschi, 32, said he has no doubt in his mind that he will play in a game this season. But that is not a given. He must prove to Coach Bill Belichick that he's ready. Bruschi is on the Patriots' physically unable to perform list. Once he begins practicing, the club will have three weeks to place him on the active roster or put him on the injured reserve list, ending his season. The defending champions have a bye this weekend before playing the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 30 at Gillette Stadium.
"I'm another player on this team, and I will be evaluated by Coach Belichick and the other coaches," Bruschi said.
He did, however, offer a warning to any player who lines up across from him and feels sympathy. "If they want to come at me a little differently, that's okay because I'll hit them the same way," Bruschi said.
Bruschi said he hasn't, at this point, signed any sort of waiver absolving the Patriots from legal liability if something goes wrong in his comeback. But that's likely to happen before he plays in a game, he acknowledged.
Cowboys Are Hurting
The loss of left tackle Flozell Adams, who tore his right anterior cruciate ligament in Sunday's win over the Giants, is a significant setback for the Dallas Cowboys. They already were having problems at right tackle, and Coach Bill Parcells has said repeatedly that his offense's ability to throw the ball effectively this season will depend on his offensive line's success in protecting immobile quarterback Drew Bledsoe. Torrin Tucker likely will become the starter at left tackle unless the Cowboys sign a veteran or move guard Larry Allen to tackle. Tucker lost the preseason competition for the right tackle job to Rob Petitti.
The severely sprained ankle suffered Sunday by Cowboys wide receiver Patrick Crayton will keep him sidelined six to eight weeks. That probably makes Peerless Price the team's No. 3 wide receiver behind starters Terry Glenn and Keyshawn Johnson. . . .
Arizona Cardinals Coach Dennis Green isn't disclosing yet whether Josh McCown or Kurt Warner will be the club's starting quarterback for Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans.
McCown started the last two games while Warner was sidelined by a groin injury, throwing for 783 yards and four touchdowns and engineering the Cardinals' only victory of the season. But he threw three interceptions in a loss to Carolina 10 days ago, before the team's bye week. Warner managed only one touchdown pass and no wins while starting the first three games of the season. . . .
Quarterback Jeff Garcia has been cleared to practice fully with the Detroit Lions this week after suffering a broken leg and a severely sprained ankle in the final preseason game. If he feels and looks good on the practice field, it's possible that he will supplant Joey Harrington as the Lions' starter for Sunday's game at Cleveland. Harrington is the league's lowest-rated passer and was booed by the home crowd at Ford Field during Sunday's loss to the Panthers. . . .
The Panthers have a bye this weekend, and Coach John Fox has made it clear that Jake Delhomme will be the team's starting quarterback when it returns to play the Minnesota Vikings at home on Oct. 30. Chris Weinke led the Panthers to their winning touchdown against the Lions after Delhomme was knocked woozy by a blow to the head. . . .
Ben Roethlisberger is scheduled to return to Pittsburgh's lineup Sunday at Cincinnati. The second-year quarterback sat out last weekend's loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars because of a bruised and hyperextended knee. Since the beginning of last season, the Steelers have a 16-1 regular season record with Roethlisberger as their starter and a 2-2 mark with Tommy Maddox in the lineup. . . .
The New Orleans Saints reportedly fired Arnold Fielkow as their executive vice president of administration. Fielkow had been heavily involved in the team's lease negotiations regarding the Superdome but caused a stir last month when a state senator in Louisiana said he'd been told by Fielkow that Saints owner Tom Benson was leaning toward moving the franchise to San Antonio permanently.