Bucs' Simms has spleen removed after loss to Carolina

Updated: September 25, 2006, 5:12 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Buccaneers quarterback Chris Simms had his spleen removed in an emergency procedure at a Tampa, Fla., hospital after rupturing it in Sunday's 26-24 loss to Carolina.

Former NFL quarterback Phil Simms confirmed to ESPN's Chris Mortensen that his son's condition was stabilized after surgery, during which he received a blood transfusion. Chris Simms is expected to remain in the hospital for several days.

"Chris is doing well and we anticipate a full recovery," team physician Dr. Joe Diaco said in a statement, adding that Simms was in stable condition.

Simms' outlook
A splenectomy such as the one Chris Simms (right) underwent involves a major incision, and the recovery time is at least six weeks, according to Dr. Michael Kaplan, ESPNEWS medical analyst.

Kaplan said an athlete can play without a spleen and that it's not unusual for somebody to rupture the organ in a game or in a car accident and continue his normal activity until the pain is too much to bear. Kaplan said people with ruptured spleens will bleed into their bellies and either feel pain or may pass out as a result of blood loss.

Kaplan said under normal circumstances, Simms should be able to resume his football career after he recovers from the surgery. The lack of a spleen puts a person at some higher risk for infection.

The spleen is an organ in the upper left side of the abdomen that filters the blood by removing old or damaged blood cells and platelets and helps the immune system by destroying bacteria and other foreign substances. It also holds extra blood that can be released into the circulatory system, if needed.

The spleen is a useful but nonessential organ. It is sometimes removed in people who have blood disorders, such as thalassemia or hemolytic anemia. If the spleen is removed, a person must get certain immunizations to help prevent infections that the spleen normally fights.

Sources: ESPNEWS, WebMD.com

There was no immediate word on how long the fourth-year pro might be sidelined. The recuperation time for a normal person is four to six weeks, though it's unclear how long it might take to heal enough to play football.

It is thought the injury occurred in the second quarter. Simms took several hard hits and left the game for two plays in the second half but returned to help the Bucs take the lead in the fourth quarter. Simms also has bruised ribs.

Simms, who left the game briefly but returned, was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital, a few blocks from Raymond James Stadium. Coach Jon Gruden said during his postgame news conference that Simms hurt his ribs early in the game and was also battling dehydration.

"He is hurting right now, there is no question," Gruden said. "He left the game. I don't know that it was because of his ribs, dehydration or both."

The loss of Simms is certainly a blow to a Tampa Bay team looking to recover from an 0-3 start.

Simms was replaced by rookie Bruce Gradkowski for the last play of the third quarter and first play of the fourth. He went to the ground on one knee before leaving the field and walking to the locker room on his own power.

The Bucs punted two plays later, and Simms returned to the game when Tampa Bay got the ball back. He led a fourth-quarter field goal drive that gave the Bucs a 24-23 lead, but the defense couldn't hold.

When he left the game, the team announced he was cramping. Simms finished the game, which Carolina won on John Kasay's 46-yard field goal with 2 seconds remaining, and left the field with his teammates on his own power.

Simms completed 13 of 24 passes for 139 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was sacked once and also took a hard hit when he scored on a 2-yard run that gave Tampa Bay a 21-20 lead in the third quarter.

Gradkowski, a sixth-round draft pick from Toledo, earned the backup quarterback job in training camp. Journeyman Tim Rattay is also on the roster.

At his Monday morning news conference, Gruden said Gradkowski would start in Week 5 and be backed up by Rattay.

Simms was a third-round draft pick in 2003. He took over the No. 1 job last season when Brian Griese was lost for the year in the sixth game and helped the Bucs finish 11-5, win the NFC South and make the playoffs for the first time since their 2002 Super Bowl run.

He has struggled this year, though, playing poorly in a 27-0 season-opening loss to Baltimore and following that up with an equally disappointing performance in a 14-3 loss at Atlanta.

His first pass Sunday was intercepted, setting up Carolina's first touchdown. He settled to lead an 82-yard TD drive in the second quarter and took advantage of three turnovers to overcome a 17-0 deficit and nearly beat the Panthers.

In 15 career regular-season starts, Simms is 7-8. He also lost his only playoff start last year.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

ALSO SEE