By KATHERINE SMITH ksmith@tampatrib.com
Published: Oct 12, 2004






TAMPA - Brian Griese walked into the Bucs' meeting room Monday and eased himself into a chair.
The seventh-year quarterback was a little more sore than in past weeks after significant playing time in the Bucs' 20-17 victory against New Orleans on Sunday. Griese plans on being just as sore next week following the Monday night game at St. Louis, where he will get his first start as a Buccaneer.

Griese came in at New Orleans after Chris Simms, making his first NFL start, went down in the Bucs' second offensive series with a sprained left shoulder. An MRI revealed no extensive damage that would require surgery, Coach Jon Gruden said Monday, and Simms is listed as doubtful for the Rams game.

Griese, the former Denver and Miami quarterback who signed with the Bucs in March, wouldn't speculate if the starting job is now his to lose.

``I have no idea,'' Griese said. ``I just found out [Monday] morning that I was going to play this week, so I'm happy about that. I'm happy about the opportunity to go out on Monday night. What a great stage, so I'm just excited about that.``

Gruden was noncommittal on how long Griese would remain the starter.

``We're just going to deal with the reality of business. Chris is hurt,`` Gruden said. ``If Chris had stayed healthy and played like he was playing, he would continue to be our starter. He's not healthy. He's hurt. Brian Griese did a heck of a job. He's starting.``

Griese completed 16 of 19 passes Sunday for 194 yards, finishing with a passer rating of 126.8. He led scoring drives of 41 and 71 yards, the longer drive capped off with his 45- yard touchdown pass to tight end Ken Dilger.

But the most impressive drive may have been the game's last, during which the Bucs converted two key third downs to run out the clock.

``I can't really say that in my years of coaching, that I have seen a guy come in, off the bench, and play that well in a situation where we really needed him to do that,'' Gruden said. ``He sparked us. He ignited us. He made some great plays in the game.''

Griese likes the responsibility that comes with the quarterback role in Gruden's offense. That was evident during the Bucs' final drive Sunday when Griese threw on three consecutive downs and converted a third-down play with a 14-yard pass to Michael Pittman.

``I like how much the offense is put in the quarterback's hands,'' Griese said. ``They really require the quarterback to pull the trigger, put the team in the right play, to make the right reads and to win the game.

``I've been in places where games have been taken out of the quarterback's hands.``

Though Gruden said a decision on who would back up Griese would be made later in the week, it appears former starter Brad Johnson, the third quarterback Sunday, will get the nod because it's uncertain whether Simms will be able to practice this week.

Griese, the backup for three games this season, becomes the third Tampa Bay starting quarterback in as many games.

``We think that position is a strength of ours,'' Gruden said. ``A lot goes into [deciding the backup] - the development of young players. They're all different in terms of their play. You look at the team we have, you look at the dynamics of everything. The input from your entire staff.

``We try to be fair, and we try to put the right guy in there to give us a chance to win.''

Sunday, the right guy was Griese. But how long he remains the No. 1 guy is unknown.

In Denver, where he spent five seasons with the unenviable task of replacing Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway, Griese wasn't always trusted with the offense. Last season in Miami, where the Dolphins signed him in June after the Broncos cut him, Griese never had time to fit in.

``I've been through quite a bit already in my career,'' said Griese, 29. ``One thing you come to expect is to expect the unexpected. You never know really what's going to happen in this league. Some weeks it's kind of like a soap opera. You've just got to be patient.``