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Friday, November 3, 2006
Simms dealing with range of emotions

By Graham Bensinger
Special to ESPN.com

Editor's note: Each week during the season, Graham Bensinger will be talking with high-profile NFL figures for ESPN.com's Weekly Conversation. This week he checks in with Buccaneers quarterback Chris Simms, who's been out of action since having his spleen removed following a loss to Carolina in Week 3.

Graham Bensinger: I hear you don't always have the best of luck when it comes to cars …

Chris Simms
Simms
Chris Simms: Who have you called?

Bensinger: (laughs) What's happened?

Simms: Let's see … I've had a few incidents in my day. I have a heavy foot so I definitely tend to speed. It actually goes back to my high school years. I shouldn't even be telling you this. I was driving without a license, backed out of a parking lot and scraped the side of my dad's [Phil Simms] car on a telephone pole. That's where it started. I've had two incidents down here in Tampa and one wasn't even my fault. I got run off the road and popped all four of my tires off my Escalade. I scraped my car up once good, again, parking. Maybe it's just parking and pulling out of parking spots that I'm not good at.

Bensinger: Wait. Let's go back to when you were driving without a license in high school and scraped your dad's car. What did he do?

Simms: He was not happy. My dad is a pretty cool guy, he didn't take it real hard on me, but I was pushing my luck there driving without a license. At least I didn't get caught by the cops. I definitely did a good amount of money's worth of damage to the car.

Bensinger: Before your dad even found out what happened, what was going through your head?

Simms: (laughs) You know …

Bensinger: I guess, what wasn't, right?

Simms: Yeah. I was definitely worried about the consequences. First, I was worried about my mother [Diana]. She can be the one that ends up being real tough with certain circumstances in my house. That's the kind of situation that she'd get mad at. I was more worried about my mother there than my father.

Bensinger: You said you got run off the road in Tampa and popped off all four tires. How do you do that?

Simms: I was driving down the right-hand lane. Somebody was making a turn in the left-hand lane. The traffic was kind of backed up. I still remember it plain as day. A silver Mustang decides to get out of traffic and go around the guy that is trying to make a left-hand turn. I was going about 45 mph and I would have hit the guy going full speed. Really, I think I did a great job. I took one for the team. I pulled off the road and hit the curb going 45 mph. I went right into the front lawn of a Blockbuster Video. There goes my tires!

Bensinger: Did the person in the Mustang come over?

Simms: No he continued to go so that wasn't good. I don't know who you got this from. You must have asked my wife or something.

Bensinger: (laughs) No … Have you ever considered possibly hiring a personal driver?

Simms: No, I enjoy driving. I'm a great driver so I don't even let those bad things affect me one bit.

Bensinger: Am I really hearing this?

Simms: (laughs) But if I got a lot of money like a Carson Palmer or Peyton Manning contract, maybe I would get a driver.

Bensinger: The fastest you've ever driven would be what?

Simms: Man, you're going to get me in trouble with all kinds of people … I've gone 140 mph before. That was the fastest I've ever gone.

Bensinger: Is that true or have you been faster?

Simms: That's totally true. I didn't have the guts to go faster than 140 mph.

Bensinger: Your wife is going to make you drive slower now that you have a daughter, right?

Simms: My wife will make me drive slower. It doesn't mean I will have any less road rage though.

Bensinger: What's it like being a father?

Simms: It's just one of the greatest joys in my life up to this point. It's so exciting every day to be able to come home and see my baby girl [Sienna Rose] smiling. She's four months old and is starting to laugh now, too. It puts things in perspective. You hear that saying all your life, but it's amazing how true it is once the time comes.

Bensinger: What did you think having a baby would be like versus the reality of what it is?

Simms: Of course, you always realize when you have a baby it is going to take some hard work. It's become a little harder than even I imagined and the same goes for my wife. The everyday things that you have to deal with for a four-month-old baby can definitely be tiring. When I come home from a long day of practice, I don't feel like picking up the baby, walking and bouncing her around to get her to stop crying -- those are the things you might take for granted. Now, I tell my friends to definitely make sure you're ready to have a baby if you're thinking about it.

Bensinger: Has she been to her first NFL game yet?

Simms: She's been to a few NFL games and slept through most of them. We've taken her to a few NFL games, a few movies and even a few plane flights, already. She's a well-diversified baby.

Bensinger: You were back in New Jersey this past weekend. What was it like having to watch the Bucs play in Giants Stadium?

"I've seen how quickly everything can turn against you in this sport. I saw it for a lot of years with my dad and other QBs. I just take it with a grain of salt. It can be a humbling sport at times. I believe in myself. I'll continue to work hard. I always believe everything will be all right in the end. "
-- Chris Simms

Simms: It was very frustrating. It's one of those things that has been frustrating ever since the moment I got hurt in Week 3 against Carolina. The fact that I wasn't going to be able to play in Giants Stadium was one of the first things I thought about. I was disappointed walking into the stadium and after the opening kickoff went into the air, but I've had five weeks to deal with it so I somewhat conquered my emotions prior to the game.

Bensinger: I know you had the game versus the Giants circled on your calendar since last April. How much were you looking forward to this game compared to any of the others you've played thus far in the NFL?

Simms: This would definitely rank up there. Probably just second behind the playoff game I played in last year against the Washington Redskins. Of course, that is the highlight of my football career to this point. This was going to be second followed by playing against Dallas on Thanksgiving Day. I'm not going to be able to play in either one of them. As a competitor and as a QB, those are the games you dream about growing up. It's just a shame that I'm not going to be able to partake in them.

Bensinger: What's the past five weeks been like for you?

Simms: There are a lot of emotions involved. It's been frustrating and disappointing. I'm used to practicing, being active, throwing footballs and working out. Right now, there's nothing I can do. I just have to wait for my scar to heal up. I'm bored. It's a tough thing for somebody who's used to always being active to go through.

Bensinger: Obviously, though, injuries happen. There's nothing you can do about them. How long does it take to get over that initial frustration, realize there's nothing you can do about it and just get your focus back on what you need to do to get back?

Simms: It doesn't take me long at all. I'm an optimist. I try to take the good out of every situation and move on. There is going to be a point every week where I'm frustrated, especially on Sundays. I'm jealous more than anything. Everybody is getting ready to play and I'm not. Injuries are a part of this game. You have to deal with it when it occurs and come back stronger.

Bensinger: Pertaining to everything -- not just football -- how limited have you been in terms of what you can do?

Simms: Right now, it's not too bad. It's been five to six weeks. I can walk around fine. I'm eating well, but that's about all I can do. As far as physical activity goes, I've done nothing. I can twist side-to-side. I'm finally starting to stand up straighter. The swelling in my stomach and chest was pulling me down. I'm going to continue getting better and will do a little more each week.

Bensinger: How likely is it that you'll be put on the Injured Reserve list?

Simms: I don't know. That's a decision our coaches and GM Bruce Allen will decide. I've been told I can maybe come back for the last two or three weeks of the season. Coach [Jon] Gruden and Bruce Allen will make the decision on whether that's right for me and the team.

Bensinger: To what extent would you like to come back for those remaining games? Or given what's happened, say, "Hey I've been injured … why not heal and be sure I'm completely healthy and then just start fresh next season?"

Simms: That's a tough question because there's the competitive side that says let's come back for two or three games and get back in it a little bit. Go out there, have some fun playing, and throwing the ball around. This isn't your typical ankle or knee injury where you can play at 80 or 90 percent. I have to really wait until it's 100 percent healed before I can go out there and take hits from guys like Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher. This is one situation where I'm definitely going to take advice from the doctors and others around me.

Bensinger: Your first three games were rough, but they were against Baltimore, Carolina and Atlanta. How fair is it to judge you by those performances?

Simms: It's very fair. Last year, we played Atlanta and Carolina twice and we won three out of those four games. I didn't play as well as I can play in those first three games. Some unlucky things happened in the Atlanta game. If you watch film, one of the interceptions was my fault and the other two were just dumb luck. I played very well in the Carolina game, but they just made a great drive at the end to come back and win it. We were down 17- 0 and then we came back. Then, [Panthers QB] Jake Delhomme made some great plays in the last drive to put his team through.

Bensinger: When you hear people say between your injury and QB Bruce Gradkowski's play, it makes you expendable -- what do you say to that?

Simms: I don't listen to what people say a whole lot. I'm not the type of guy that reads the newspaper or watches the local news. We'll see how the situation pans out as the season comes to an end. Bruce has done some great things. The only thing I can control is me getting healthy.

Bensinger: I understand, but you're the QB who guided the Bucs to their first playoff berth since their Super Bowl victory. Comments like that have to be at least mildly irritating.

Simms: Of course it is! But you're talking to a guy who grew up in New York City and watched his dad be scrutinized after winning the Super Bowl MVP. I've seen how quickly everything can turn against you in this sport. I saw it for a lot of years with my dad and other QBs. I just take it with a grain of salt. It can be a humbling sport at times. I believe in myself. I'll continue to work hard. I always believe everything will be all right in the end.

Bensinger: Some people have said that based on Coach Gruden's history and coaching style, even if you're the best QB, because of your strong arm, you may not be the best fit. What do you think?

Simms: I don't know what to think about that. We did some good things last year. We were very successful. This year, like you said, we played against three great defenses to start the season. We didn't do things quite as well as we should have. There's no reason for me to believe that things can't work out here between me and Coach Gruden. We've had a great relationship, done some good things together, and I've got no reason to believe otherwise.

Bensinger: If re-signing with Tampa Bay means you'll have to compete for the starting job, how interested will you be?

Simms: The situation I'm going to be in -- I'm most likely going to have to compete no matter where I go. Competing to play is no new thing for me. I'm definitely not going to shy away from that. I love it here in Tampa. I love living here and I love the fans. It's a great football city. They're extremely loyal to their sports teams.

Bensinger: I know your sole focus is on getting better, but what do you think the chances are you'll be back with Tampa Bay next season?

Simms: I don't know. Your guess is as good as mine. There's the business side of this where you never know what is going to happen. Hopefully I'm back here, but if the organization decides they want to go in a different direction -- then so be it. I'll go somewhere else and try to work my hardest there.

Bensinger: Rumor or fact: You and your wife have begun packing things up in your house.

Simms: That's definitely a rumor. We're still unpacking in our house. We just moved in. We're still trying to get settled in so hopefully we don't have to leave anytime soon.

Bensinger: The media reported as fact that you turned down a multiyear, $10 million contract. In reality, the talks were only vague. What actually transpired?

Simms: Like you said, those talks were just vague. We never got to the terms of a multiyear deal. If we wanted to go there, we could have talked about it. As far as my agent and I go, we only wanted to sign a one-year deal. I'm pretty sure that's what the Bucs wanted to do as well. There never was another deal. There were just preliminary talks.

Bensinger: If the Bucs were interested in giving you the multiyear contract that your play warranted, how much interest would you have had then?

Simms: Definitely big interest. We have some really good young talent here. We have a good coaching staff.

Bensinger: So basically the situation was, at that time, they weren't interested in giving you the contract that your play warranted.

Simms: I think you're right. I'd only played a certain amount of games in my NFL career and I'm sure they wanted to see more out of me. At the same time, I didn't want to short myself either by signing a deal before the season. Then, I'd come out and have a really good year and be disappointed that I signed that deal. It was best for both sides.

Bensinger: If you were offered the contract that was reported, how enticing would that have been for you?

Simms: I don't know if I would have signed for $10 million guaranteed, honestly. If it was a $10 million signing bonus, that's different than three years for $10 million. I don't think I would have signed it regardless.

Bensinger: Since you were drafted as the last pick of the third round, you didn't get a contract similar to a top pick. Obviously, this was a big season for you since you'll be a free agent in the offseason. How has the injury impacted the upcoming contract?

Simms: I don't think there will be any reservations about my health. This is an injury that has happened in sports before and guys have come back and played long careers. I don't think the injury will impact it at all. Hopefully, teams look at what I've done on the field from last year through the start of this season. They should make the decision on that and that alone.

Graham Bensinger is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. Visit his Web site at: TheGBShow.com. You can e-mail him at graham@thegbshow.com