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Bucs' Garcia, Brooks injured in season-opening loss

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia sprained an ankle during the Buccaneers' season-opening loss at New Orleans and is questionable for this week's home game against Atlanta.

It was unclear when Garcia was hurt. The 38-year-old finished the game Sunday, throwing an interception that halted a potential game-winning drive in a 24-20 loss.

Coach Jon Gruden did not specify which ankle was injured, but said the four-time Pro Bowl selection apparently was hurt late in the game and had some swelling. If he can't play against the Falcons, Brian Griese likely will start the home opener.

Garcia was not sharp Sunday after missing most of training camp and the preseason because of a right calf strain. His preparation for New Orleans also was affected by a jammed pinkie finger on his throwing hand.

"Obviously he's had the calf, the pinkie, and now he's got an ankle," Gruden said. "He's going to be questionable."

Two other players, linebacker Derrick Brooks (right hamstring strain) and backup receiver Maurice Stovall (neck strain) also are questionable for Sunday against the Falcons, who opened with a win over Detroit.

Brooks, who was injured in the third quarter Sunday, has made 192 consecutive starts, the NFL's longest streak among active defensive players. Neither he nor Garcia were available for comment.

Backups Adam Hayward and Matt McCoy filled in for Brooks against the Saints. If he's not ready to face the Falcons, one option that may be considered is moving strong side linebacker Cato June into Brooks' weak side position.

"We have the capability to move people around a little bit," Gruden said.

Griese led Tampa Bay to a 5-1 start in 2005 before sustaining a season-ending knee injury. He signed with Chicago as a free agent the following year and spent the last two seasons there, primarily as a backup.

He started six games for the Bears in 2007. The Bucs reacquired him this year in an offseason trade.

If Garcia is unable to practice Wednesday, Gruden will begin preparing both Griese and Luke McCown.

"We have to get wired in. ... We'll make sure we get all the information we need to do what gives our team a chance to get back to 1-1 and win our first football game," Gruden said.

The coach shrugged off questions about how much Garcia's performance in new Orleans was related to the amount of practice time he missed during camp.

Garcia completed 24 of 41 passes for 221 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

"I don't know what rust is, really. What can I cay? ... He just missed a couple of throws he normally hits," Gruden said.

Tampa Bay was 0-for-8 on third-down conversions through three quarters and finished 2-for-12. Garcia's last pass, on fourth-and-6 from the Saints 24 in the final minute, was intercepted by Saints linebacker Scott Fujita.

It might not have come down to that, though, if the Bucs had relied more on their running game.

Tampa Bay rushed for 146 yards, with Earnest Graham leading the way with 91 yards on 10 carries and Warrick Dunn gaining 54 yards on nine attempts.

But Gruden said costly penalties and an inability to convert on third downs forced Tampa Bay out of a "running mentality."

And, it didn't help that the Bucs played from behind much of the day.

"I'll be the first to say Earnest played well, and we've got to give it to him more. Warrick Dunn, too," the coach said.

"We've got to start better. It's a credit to the guys for hanging in there, coming back and answering two of New Orleans' scores with scores themselves. Then the last drive of the game was a good drive, put our team in a position to win," Gruden added. "Unfortunately we just didn't get it done."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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