Buccaneers Blog: Garcia will start on Sunday

Jeff Garcia (Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Buccaneers Blog is my blog on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, including breaking news, analysis, story links and injury updates. Today, find out why Jon Gruden held Jeff Garcia out of Sunday's game and if he expects a call from the league about his vague comments on Garcia's status.

Game time change, 2:45 p.m.

The NFL announced today that the Tampa Bay-San Francisco game, which was supposed to be set for 8:15 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 23, on NBC has been moved to 4:05 p.m. on Fox.

This is due to the NFL's flexible scheduling option, which is used starting Week 11 to put better matchups on the league's marquee prime time game on Sunday night.

NBC will now broadcast the Washington-Minnesota game that night.

This is a bit surprising for a couple of reasons. First, this was to the Buccaneers' only prime-time appearance of the season. It would have been NBC's only chance to showcase the Bucs during the regular season.

Second, with the game set for San Francisco, it would have made for an easy drive home for NBC's Al Michaels and John Madden, who both live in the San Francisco area.

The Redskins-Vikings game is in Minnesota.

Garcia will start, 11:17 a.m.

Bucs head coach Jon Gruden reiterated that Jeff Garcia would be the starting quarterback against Atlanta on Sunday.

He also talked about keeping the fans, the media and the opponent in the dark a bit about Garcia's status for the game. He told the media on Sunday that the training staff felt Garcia's recovery period would be two weeks and that he had no intention of playing Garcia against the Texans.

"I may have been vague," Gruden said. "I just don't think the opponent needs to know who to prepare for. I don't feel I should apologize. I don't feel I need to divulge everything. We felt it was a two-week injury. Jeff could have gone yesterday because he's tough as hell. We feel we did the right thing (holding Garcia out)."

Gruden also said he didn't expect a phone call from the NFL about the vagueness of his comments leading up to the game.

"No, because he had a chance to play," Gruden said. "His status was in question. We made the best decision for Jeff and this team. Players can play hurt, and Jeff is one of them that can do that. It was our decision to hold him for two games. If the league wants to call, they will."

Gruden also talked about the security he now feels with Luke McCown as the backup after two solid performances the past two games.

"He (McCown) did some good things yesterday," Gruden said. "He made seven or eight plays that weren't as good as the others. I'm pleased at what he's done. He's handled tough situations and moved our football team down the field. There's plenty of room for improvement. But we see him as a guy who has the potential to be outstanding."

Injury update, 11:10 a.m.

Bucs head coach Jon Gruden didn't have much in the way of injury updates on Monday morning, saying most of the players were still being evaluated when he walked in to meet the media at One Buc Place.

One player he did update — somewhat — was wide receiver Ike Hilliard, who suffered a shoulder injury on Sunday in Houston.

"He's being evaluated now," Gruden said. "He has an upper back that we're looking at. We're confident he'll be able to play. But we can update you more on Wednesday."

If Hilliard is unable to play on Sunday against Atlanta, then Michael Clayton and Maurice Stovall will both seem more playing time. Hilliard's absence would also eliminate a package of plays that Hilliard is expert at running.

"He's certainly an important player in our offense," Gruden said.

Gruden also said that B.J. Askew was limited on Sunday against Houston and was a game-time decision. He called Askew "very questionable" for the Falcons game.

Askew had his left ankle in a hard cast on Wednesday and Thursday in an attempt to accelerate the recovery of the injury, but Gruden indicated it didn't help that much.

He mentioned that if Askew can't play he would start rookie Byron Storer at fullback. He's barely played in the offense this season.

Was it dishonest?, 10:15 a.m.

Bucs head coach Jon Gruden admitted on Sunday that he had no intention of playing Jeff Garcia against the Texans. Here was his reasoning:

"Well, there's sure been a lot of debate and I've done the best I can to not let the whole world know what we're doing," Gruden said. "It's hard enough to make a first down in this league. I think everybody has their game plan. But this was a two-week injury. The medical people said the injury was going to take two full weeks. As you know, Garcia will tell you he could've played. And he could've. And he played against Washington after he got hurt. But the injury took two weeks to heal. We feel we did the only thing and that's let the injury take its time to heal."

I actually don't have a problem with the logic of sitting Garcia, especially given their cushion in the NFC South. But all week Gruden led us to believe there was a chance that Garcia would play, to the point where most of us thought the veteran would. And then he started Luke McCown on Sunday.

Is that dishonest? Probably not. That's more gamesmanship than dishonesty, and that goes on all the time in sports. Gruden said he was trying real hard not to let anyone know what was going on for a reason. He wanted to at least try and create doubt for the Texans in what the Bucs might do offensively. It's harder to prepare for two quarterbacks than one.

Texans coach Gary Kubiak came out on Wednesday and told us that Sage Rosenfels would start for Matt Schaub. But Schaub had a shoulder separation, a much more serious injury. Garcia's deep back bruise is more vague and a timetable for such recoveries is less concrete. So Gruden can hedge his bets a little.

This is where savvy coaches can use the media and Gruden did a good job of it last week. Dishonest? No. That's just the way it's done.

Catch up at Bucsblitz.com, 10:10 a.m.

Looking for complete coverage of the game? Find it here at Bucsblitz.com. You can catch up with the Bucs' 28-14 loss to Houston with our game story by clicking here. Greg White had another sensational game this Sunday. Go inside the numbers and get other notes about the game by clicking here. Did you miss the scoring summary from yesterday? Don't worry. We have our own summary, with complete offensive stats and grades for all key positions for the Bucs. Read more by clicking here. And, see the best images from the game in our Bucs-Texans photo gallery by clicking here.

Slowing the pace, 10:07 a.m.

Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune writes that all the Texans' win over the Buccaneers on Sunday did was slow the team's trek to a NFC South title — and expose some weaknesses on the Buccaneers' defense. The latter is probably of more concern. Read more at TBO.com.

Injury concerns, 10:06 a.m.

The Bucs should — I stress "should" — update us later today on Ike Hilliard's condition. But after the game on Sunday, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden didn't sound terribly good about Hilliard's shoulder injury. Read more at TBO.com.

Moving on, 10:04 a.m.

Martin Fennelly of the Tampa Tribune writes that the Buccaneers need to move onward after Sunday's loss to Houston, not backward. A good start? Start Jeff Garcia at quarterback on Sunday. Read more at TBO.com.

Not so happy return, 10:02 a.m.

Bucs head coach Jon Gruden chimed all week about his lack of special teams excellence, but it came into stark focus on Sunday after Andre Davis' kickoff return for a touchdown. And the Bucs had one of the best kick coverage units in the NFL before that return. Read the Bucs' reaction at Tampabay.com.

No Jeff, 10:01 a.m.

After Sunday's loss, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden admitted he never had any intention of playing Jeff Garcia on Sunday. Read more at Tampabay.com.

Don't pin it all on Luke, 9:59 a.m.

St. Petersburg Times columnist Gary Shelton writes that you can blame backup quarterback Luke McCown for Sunday's loss to Houston, if you wish. And there's reason to blame McCown. But he also writes that you shouldn't forget to blame the rest of the team for not making up for the unwritten rule of the NFL — the rest of the team must play better when the backup is in the game. Read more at Tampabay.com.

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