Tampa Bay Buccaneers tell Jeff Garcia to move on
Garcia, who turns 39 before the start of free agency Feb. 27, said Sunday night Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik has informed his agent, Steve Baker, that the team did not want him to return for a third season.
"My time in Tampa has come to an end,'' Garcia said.
The Bucs signed quarterback Luke McCown to a two-year, $7.5-million contract last week, preventing him from becoming a free agent.
"I'm not under contract and I'm about to hit free agency and that means it's time again for me to just move on,'' Garcia said. "It is disappointing because I enjoyed the atmosphere and the team environment in that locker room...Change is needed at times. Sometimes it's how you tweak it, not change it. With a new head coach, they want somebody pulling the trigger that they can mold. Beyond that, I don't know why they're making the move.''
Garcia went 14-10 in 24 starts during the regular season with the Bucs the past two seasons, leading Tampa Bay to a playoff appearance in 2007 and earning a trip to the Pro Bowl while throwing 13 touchdowns and four interceptions.
But last season, a calf injury he sustained in training camp led to his benching after a season-opening loss at New Orleans. Garcia regained the job the second quarter of the season and finished with an 8-5 record.
But after a 9-3 start, Tampa Bay lost its final four games in December -- including one that Garcia was forced to miss at Atlanta because of a leg injury. Coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen were fired Jan. 17 after failing to reach the playoffs.
At the time of Gruden's firing, Garcia said he believed a change was needed. But he says Gruden pushed him to become a better quarterback in two seasons with the Bucs.
"I think in many ways, Jon has received somewhat of a bad rap after all that's been said and done after his firing,'' Garcia said. "To the quarterback room, he brought a lot of knowledge and definitely brought enthusiasm every single day. He challenged me as a player to find ways to better myself as a player. That was on a daily basis. There wasn't a day that went by when you felt you could relax and rest upon what you knew as a quarterback.
"That's something I needed as a quarterback. I needed to be challenged and not rely on what I've done throughout my career. Jon did that to me. He can be draining because of his energy level and approach. It can zap you at times if you don't know how to handle it. I think that's where young players do have a hard time in dealing with Jon because of his expectations and the maturity you have to have in order to deal with his intensity and emotions.''
Garcia, who has played for five different teams in the last six years, says he wants to continue his career and believes he will get another opportunity when the free agent signing period begins next week.
"I do feel like I have football life in me,'' Garcia siad. "I feel I can still contribute. I'm not sure what my role will be with another team. I'm not looking at it like I need to start and be the man...Hopefully, I'll have some opportunities out there. I'm pretty sure there's going to be something out there for me.
"I think what started in Philly and continued in Tampa was the rejuvenation of me and the fire coming back and the excitement of the game and the thrill of playing the game again. I had a great time playing in front of those fans in Tampa. We'll miss Tampa.''
(Times photo -- Brian Cassella. Click to enlarge.)