It was all Jake at One Buc Place on Thursday.
Given the fact that head coach Jon Gruden had canceled Thursday’s practice and there were no players or coaches to talk to, general manager Bruce Allen had to expect at least a few Jake Plummer questions during his final meeting with the media before training camp.
Nearly half of the questions, though, had something to do with Plummer, making the 11-year veteran the most popular “retired” quarterback in football.
Allen said Plummer’s absence during this week’s mandatory mini-camp posed no distraction to the Buccaneers. When asked if the situation seemed unresolved, Allen claimed that it wasn’t much different than a holdout by a certain wide receiver in 2003.
“It is resolved,” Allen said. “We’ve traded for him and it’s no different, if he chooses not to report to camp, than when Keenan McCardell didn’t report to camp or when you see other players hold out. There’s no difference.”
Allen has been adamant since the Bucs traded for Plummer in March that “The Snake” would not be traded and that he would play for the Buccaneers.
But Plummer has been largely silent since reiterating his desire to retire before a handball game shortly after the trade. He remains an issue to the Buccaneers because he has not officially retired. In order to do so, he must file retirement papers with the NFL.
So, naturally, that leads to questions about Plummer’s intentions. Is he really retired? Or is he trying to force a trade to a team he wants to play for? None of that is clear, and Allen did little to clear up the uncertainty.
The extent of talks with Plummer and his agent have been one-way. In other words, Allen and Gruden calling Plummer.
Still, Plummer’s absence is no distraction, Allen said.
“We haven’t missed a beat with him not here,” Allen said of Plummer. “We’re preparing for our season. Our quarterback competition, as you all know, has been very lively and we feel good with the players we have here. We’re not waiting for anybody. We’re going forward.”
Yet, shortly after, Allen reiterated the Bucs’ desire to have Plummer in training camp.
Why? Maybe Gruden said it best earlier this week.
“We wish him the very best,” Gruden said. “We hope he comes in. He’s a helluva quarterback. He was 15-2 two years ago, and last year he won a lot of games. Right now he’s retired. We just hope at some point he reconsiders and considers saddling up with the Bucs.”
So Plummer showing up in Orlando in late July wouldn’t be a distraction to the five quarterbacks that have been preparing for this season since March?
“It’s not a distraction to the other players on the team and we’ve moving forward,” Allen said.
Unless Plummer reports, of course.
This situation has the potential to be a little distracting if Plummer does not report. Because Plummer did not come to this week’s mandatory workouts, he is subject to disciplinary action by the Bucs, including possible fines. Allen said the Bucs don’t discuss their fines publicly.
Come training camp, if Plummer doesn’t show up, he’s subject to more fines. The situation could devolve into the mess McCardell’s holdout turned in to in 2003, when the Bucs eventually traded him to San Diego, but demanded part of their bonus money back.
The Bucs would be within their rights to do that with Plummer, as they own his rights and would benefit from any financial obligations Plummer might have to the team. And Plummer’s contract isn’t chump change, either. He’s making $5.2 million in base salary and counts more than $6 million against the salary cap. Of course, for the first time in years, the Bucs have the cap room to absorb such a salary.
Allen said that if Plummer didn’t show by the regular season, he could remain on the 53-man roster, but not count against the head count.
Plummer’s contract has ramifications if he officially retires. Typically, salary bonuses that are prorated for the life of the contract to keep cap numbers down are accelerated and must be counted that season. In other words, Plummer’s bonus could be “dead” money on the 2007 cap.
That may be part of the reason the Bucs are in no hurry to push Plummer on his status. With the cap room to handle the contract — and possible dead money — and plenty of quarterbacks, the Bucs can afford to wait.
Plus, Allen alluded that Plummer isn’t exactly sitting on his couch and eating potato chips. Allen was asked what his reaction would be if Plummer showed up in September 10 pounds overweight and asking to play.
“I’m not concerned about that,” Allen said.
And if Plummer does show up in Orlando, Allen made it clear the veteran is welcome.
“We traded for him with the intent of him playing for the Buccaneers and he knows that,” Allen said. “We’ve been very clear in what we see for him and his future. We just have to see if we have a meeting of the minds.”
Coming Friday: Matthew Postins analyzes the Plummer situation in his weekly Postscripts column, and explains why Chris Simms might be getting a raw deal.
Want more stories on Jake Plummer. Here’s the link to his Scout.com player page:
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. Included among his more than two dozen writing and editing awards are national awards from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors, and state awards from the Florida Press Club and the Florida Sports Writers Association, for his coverage of the Buccaneers since 2004.