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Gruden stays away from speculation about possible Favre trade

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Fresh off the practice field, Jon Gruden dodged question after question about Brett Favre. At times, the Tampa Bay coach even feigned compassion for a horde of reporters frustrated by vague answers.

The sweat-drenched coach insisted he was not trying to be evasive Wednesday about the state of Tampa Bay's pursuit of the Green Bay Packers quarterback as a replacement for Jeff Garcia, repeatedly claiming he simply didn't have enough information to talk about the situation.

"Don't shoot the messenger here, guys. I'm just a football coach," he said at one point. "I just went through 196 plays. I've got a lot on my mind. I'm hot. I'm tired."

Three minutes later, he ended the session with a smile: "Can I go now?"

The Bucs still haven't confirmed publicly that they are interested in Favre, however Gruden conceded the quarterback's saga is "unprecedented" and acknowledged he's always willing to explore ways to improve his team.

Garcia was brought in as a free agent last year and led Tampa Bay to a division title and was selected to play in the Pro Bowl for the fourth time.

Nevertheless, his grip on the starting job likely will end if the Bucs complete a trade for the iconic Packers quarterback who's coming out of retirement.

"I don't want to speculate. No disrespect to any of the questions. But for me to keep speculating on this report and that report is just not right," Gruden said.

"I have a lot of respect for the situation. It's unprecedented, in my opinion. I'm just going to be real careful right now saying anything because I don't have all the facts."

Another question that can't be answered with certainty is how long it would take Favre to learn and feel comfortable in Gruden's version of the West Coast offense, which the coach maintains is not as complicated as some people think.

Brad Johnson led Tampa Bay to a Super Bowl title in his first season in the system. And, Gruden pointed out Bruce Gradkowski started 11 games as a rookie in 2006 and Garcia played well enough in 2007 that he went to the Pro Bowl in his first year with the Bucs.

"I get tired of how hard it is. ... Anything is possible if you put your heart in it, you put your soul into and believe it can happen," Gruden said, adding that former Bucs backup Tim Rattay learned the offense well enough after a midseason trade that he was able to win a game as a starter.

"This is an unprecedented situation, at least in my opinion. I was in Oakland when we got Jerry Rice. That was similar to this from the standpoint, he's probably the best receiver to ever play."

Garcia, who did not practice Wednesday because of calf sprain, was not available for comment.

But after reporting to camp on July 28, the veteran of 14 pro seasons -- nine in the NFL -- addressed speculation about the Bucs' interest Favre. He was asked how long it takes even an experienced quarterback to pick up Gruden's terminology.

Garcia has spent all of his NFL career in West Coast systems and had nearly an entire offseason to get acclimated in Tampa Bay. Still, he said the season was nearly half over before he felt he had a real good grasp.

"There is variation to the West Coast styles of offense. I had a chance to work with the Green Bay staff in Hawaii this year at the Pro Bowl, and their terminology was very different than ours. Different coaches who have coached the system have added different levels to the system," Garcia said.

"Coach Gruden has taken it a certain direction and he's multiplied maybe what I experienced in San Francisco with (Steve) Mariucci and in Philly with the coaches there. He's multiplied it probably three or four (times) with the amount of volume we have in the system."

That said, Garcia still expressed the belief that Favre would be up to the task because of his long tenure in Green Bay, where Gruden was a receivers coach when Favre joined the Packers in 1992.

Gruden said following the Bucs' morning practice at Disney World that "Brett's situation will resolve itself during the coming days, I would assume."

He reiterated the rumors that have been swirling for weeks have not been a distraction for his players.

"There's speculation about all of us," Gruden said. "Our No. 1 objective is to try to win. We'll do anything to get the best football team we can. That's all I can say. That's something that will not change."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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