Bucs will place QB Simms on IR to make room for new back

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers plan to place the backup quarterback on injured reserve Wednesday, creating room on the roster to bring in a replacement for injured running backs Cadillac Williams and Michael Pittman.

Simms had his spleen removed after taking several hard hits in the third game of last season and has struggled to regain his form. He took only a few snaps during the preseason, however the Bucs retained him as the fourth quarterback in hopes that his performance in practice would improve by now.

“We were hopeful and Chris was hopeful,” general manager Bruce Allen said during a conference call Tuesday. “He’s not at full strength, and we don’t anticipate he’ll be at full strength until the offseason.”

The Bucs lost Williams, the 2005 NFL offensive rookie of the year, to a season-ending knee injury two weeks ago. Pittman started last Sunday against Indianapolis, but was carted off during the second quarter with a high ankle sprain that’s expected to sideline him six-to-eight weeks.

The injuries leave the Bucs (3-2) without much experience at running back.

Earnest Graham, a contributor on special teams for most of his four years in the NFL, is set to make his first pro start Sunday against Tennessee. Rookie Kenneth Darby is the backup after beginning the season on the practice squad.

The Bucs brought in former Oakland Raiders fullback Zack Crockett for a workout last week and took a look Tuesday at some other players whom Allen would not identify. The team also explored the possibility of a trade.

“Right now we don’t anticipate making a trade,” Allen said, adding that unlike other sports, such deals are rarely made during the football season.

The general manager said an MRI revealed Pittman, the starting tailback during Tampa Bay’s 2002 Super Bowl run, has a badly sprained ankle but that the Bucs remain hopeful that he will be able to play again this season.

“There’s no fracture … and Michael has been known to be a quick healer,” Allen said.

Simms, 27, replaced the injured Brian Griese during the 2005 season and helped the Bucs win the NFC South and make the playoffs for the first time since their Super Bowl year. He entered 2006 with high expectations, but played poorly in the first two games and underwent an emergency splenectomy after a loss to Carolina in Week 3.

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