Knocked flat
Rick Stroud, The St.Petersburg Times, published 10 September 2007

It was a scene painfully too familiar for the Buccaneers. The starting quarterback tried to get to his feet after taking a big hit, wobbled like he was walking on a broken stiletto heel, then dropped to one knee. Jeff Garcia was helped to the locker room, where doctors took out their brooms to clear the cobwebs.

"I just got my bell rung," Garcia said. "It was one of those things where I took a shot to the head, and I think the combination of (the hit and) my head bouncing off the ground didn't create a real positive effect. I touched my nose a few times, and I counted down from 10. I didn't miss any numbers, so, it was one of those things where I think it's up to me. It's hard to stay out of the fight."

Garcia, who did not suffer a concussion, made it back Sunday. But his team never did. After losing running back Cadillac Williams and Garcia on consecutive series in the third quarter, the Bucs were shut out in the second half of a 20-6 loss to the Seahawks.

Williams, who suffered bruised ribs after taking a vicious hit from Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu, never returned. He was unavailable for comment, and the severity of his injury is unknown. When Williams and Garcia went out, the Bucs trailed 10-6. By the time Garcia returned, the Seahawks had closed the deal when quarterback Matt Hasselbeck connected with running back Maurice Morris on a 34-yard touchdown pass.

After scoring 10 points or less in eight games last season, the Bucs had hoped for more from Garcia. The 37-year-oldfinished 19-of-27 for 201 yards and was sacked three times. He staked the Bucs to a 6-0 lead in the first quarter on field goals of 38 and 32 yards by Matt Bryant.

But Garcia struggled in the second half and was too quick to give up on routes by receivers. He had just scrambled for a first down when he was struck by Seattle linebacker Leroy Hill. It was nearly a year ago when the Bucs watched starting quarterback Chris Simms suffer a ruptured spleen in a Week 3 loss to Carolina. "As you can imagine, we have had a lot of injuries at that (quarterback) position," Jon Gruden said.

Durability has always been a question for Williams, who missed two games in each of his two pro seasons with a foot injury. He rushed for 60 yards on 12 carries before being hit from the blindside by Tatupu with 10 minutes left in the third quarter.

Tatupu didn't treat Williams' replacements much better. He poked the ball away from Earnest Graham after a short reception at the Seattle 12-yard line, and cornerback Kelly Jennings recovered with 3:38 remaining in the game to end any comeback hopes.

Meanwhile, Garcia and Williams weren't the only Bucs injured. Cornerback Brian Kelly suffered a groin pull and could be out for several weeks. The defense had its problems as well. Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown. And Hasselbeck went 17-of-24 for 222 yards and a touchdown for an 113.5 QB rating. He was rarely pressured and sacked twice.

At least Garcia and Williams have a chance to make it back. That's good, because it won't get any easier. The Bucs host defending NFC South champion New Orleans on Sunday. If the Bucs are to have a chance, Garcia knows he must stay healthy. But every play, he walks a tightrope between scrambling to keep plays alive and exposing himself to injury.

"There are times when you have to realize the play is just not there and get rid of it and avoid the hit," Garcia said, "and that's something I need to work out and not expose myself so much to taking those shots. I'm so used to doing it throughout my career. I feel like I've always been fortunate enough to bounce back up and continue playing. Today was one of those situations where when I took the shot and got knocked out of the game, I was trying to get a first down. I did get the first down, but it didn't help the team by me having to now miss a couple series."