TAMPA, Fla. -- Jon Gruden knows what he has in Jeff Garcia, so the Tampa Bay coach isn't sweating the veteran Pro Bowl quarterback's shaky preseason debut.
Garcia was intercepted twice, but threw a second-quarter touchdown pass before departing the Buccaneers' 23-17 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday night.
"I'm not going to be a basket case," Gruden said of the 38-year-old's performance. "He's played a lot of football.
"He's going to be fine."
Garcia, whose future with the Bucs was in question this summer while the team pursued a possible trade for Brett Favre, missed most of training camp because of a strained right calf that also sidelined him for Tampa Bay's first two preseason games.
The big question now is whether Garcia has had enough game work that Gruden will be comfortable going into the regular season opener without playing him more than most of the other starters in Thursday's preseason finale at Houston.
Garcia completed 11 of 18 passes for 79 yards, including a 10-yard TD throw to Michael Clayton on his final play. But he also was intercepted twice by safety Reggie Nelson -- once in the end zone -- and the Bucs turned the ball over on three of the five possessions he was in the game.
"It was a tough start. There is a lot of rust I have to shake off," Garcia said. "I am glad Coach Gruden gave me the opportunity to stay in there and continue to compete, and thankfully we put a drive together and finished it off well."
Jacksonville's starters played into the third quarter, and David Garrard finished his night with a 4-yard TD pass to Marcedes Lewis for a 17-7 lead. He also threw an 8-yarder to Dennis Northcutt after Nelson's first interception.
Earnest Graham's first-quarter fumble led to a Jacksonville field goal, and Garcia's second interception stopped a Tampa Bay drive that reached the 11.
"I made two very poor decisions tonight, which is very unlike me, and I think it shows that I haven't practiced a lot and haven't played at all," Garcia said. "Those are things I needed to get out of my system. Hopefully I can move on from here."
Tampa Bay linebacker Antoine Cash was carted off the field with a neck injury midway through the fourth quarter, but had movement in his extremities after diving and colliding with a teammate making a tackle.
"We don't know the exact severity, but he is moving around," Gruden said. "The signs are good, but it's a scary thing. We're praying for him obviously, but we do have good news from the standpoint that he is moving around."
The Bucs played without three offensive starters -- receiver Joey Galloway, who has yet to play in the preseason because of a sore groin; fullback B.J. Askew, and guard Davin Joseph, who broke his right foot during the previous week's preseason victory over New England. Jacksonville back Maurice Jones-Drew left in the first quarter with an ankle sprain and did not return.
"He's OK. He would keep going if we let him," Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio said.
Garrard was 10-of-16 for 118 yards and one interception for the Jaguars, whose first-team offense scored one touchdown in seven possessions during the team's first two preseason games. Backup Cleo Lemon directed a 15-play drive lasting more than seven minutes to produce Josh Scobee's 45-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.
"The defense came out and started excellent and created turnovers. ... That is the type of football we definitely want to try and play this year," Jacksonville running back Fred Taylor said. "Offensively, we capitalized and did some good things. But of course, we know we can get better."
Tampa Bay's Luke McCown threw a 3-yard TD pass to Chad Lucas late in the fourth quarter. The backup quarterback also marched the Bucs deep into Jacksonville territory before the potential winning drive was stopped on downs in the closing seconds.
"Obviously we have a lot of work to do yet," Del Rio said. "But it's always a lot more fun to do it after you've done some things well and come out of here with a victory."
|Sat. Aug. 23||Final|
|JAC - Pass: D. Garrard (10-16, 118), Rec: M. Jones (3-45)|
TB - Pass: L. McCown (11-19, 104), Rec: C. Smith (3-41)
|FG||Josh Scobee 23 Yd, 10:02. Drive: 6 plays, 18 yards in 3:23.|
|TD||Dennis Northcutt, 8 Yd pass from David Garrard (Josh Scobee kick is good), 6:41. Drive: 7 plays, 27 yards in 3:07.|
|TD||Michael Clayton, 10 Yd pass from Jeff Garcia (Matt Bryant kick is good), 4:42. Drive: 9 plays, 43 yards in 3:54.|
|TD||Marcedes Lewis, 4 Yd pass from David Garrard (Josh Scobee kick is good), 12:00. Drive: 7 plays, 69 yards in 3:00.|
|FG||Matt Bryant 27 Yd, 5:30. Drive: 7 plays, 42 yards in 2:46.|
|FG||Josh Scobee 45 Yd, 12:41. Drive: 14 plays, 50 yards in 7:49.|
|FG||Josh Scobee 25 Yd, 6:58. Drive: 4 plays, 2 yards in 2:26.|
|TD||Chad Lucas, 3 Yd pass from Luke McCown (Matt Bryant kick is good), 3:43. Drive: 9 plays, 75 yards in 3:15.|
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