LAKE BUENA VISTA — If the Bucs are still considering plans to strip the starting quarterback job from Jeff Garcia, they may have to drag him out of the huddle.
"I'm the starter here," Garcia said after arriving at training camp Monday. "I'm going to choke it to death. And until somebody pulls my grip off of it, then it's my job."
Garcia, 38, was excused from the first four workouts to attend the 35th anniversary of Gavilan College's national junior college football championship. His father, Bob, coached that team in Gilroy, Calif.
Garcia was upbeat and confident Monday, despite being greeted by teammates as well as speculation that the Bucs are interested in trading for the Packers' Brett Favre.
Garcia said that neither coach Jon Gruden nor general manager Bruce Allen had assured him that the Bucs are not interested in Favre. But Garcia also said he had no reason to doubt his status.
"I don't think they should necessarily come up to me and say, 'Hey, don't worry about what you're hearing out there. You're our guy,' " Garcia said. "Whether they need to do that or not, I'm not expecting them to."
For the fourth straight day, Gruden refused to rule out interest in Favre, who has agreed not to report to Packers camp for a few days while the team attempts to seek a trade for him.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Monday night that the Packers have been calling all over the league trying to acquire something of value for the iconic quarterback. Last week they were looking for a third-round draft choice plus a player, but general manager Ted Thompson said no team was biting.
The Journal Sentinel said Favre is complicating the Packers' efforts by declining to give them a list of teams for which he'd consider playing. According to SI.com, Favre is "lukewarm at best'' about playing for the Jets or Bucs, teams that have received permission to talk to him.
"I'm worried about our football team, and I'd prefer to keep the conversation to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers," Gruden said Monday. "Jeff Garcia, as you saw, was our starting quarterback today."
As of Monday, the Bucs reportedly had not spoken with Favre but were doing some fact-finding.
Garcia, who appeared relaxed and joked, didn't seem like a quarterback about to get the hook.
During a 20-minute news conference, he didn't even pout about the lack of progress on a contract extension. He is due to earn about $2.5-million this season.
"I signed a two-year contract here, and (I'm) in the second year of my contract, and I will play out that contract," Garcia said. "And I won't look at that contract every single day and think about the what ifs or what could've been."
Garcia has reason to be confident. In his first season in Tampa Bay, he led the Bucs to the NFC South title and was named to the Pro Bowl. After spending the past five seasons with five teams, he looked forward to returning to Tampa.
"It's been an uphill battle for me getting people to appreciate what I can do on the field," Garcia said. "If it means I have to fight that battle again — first of all it's nothing new to me. Does it get old for me after awhile? Yes, it does. But if that's the push I need at 38 years old, so be it. That's what I'm going to do.
"I know that I'm the starting quarterback here. If something changes, they either shift me out or it's going to be a battle. That's my attitude on it."
During Garcia's first team drill, linebacker Derrick Brooks attempted to call time out, resulting in a broken play. He did it again on the next snap so players could mockingly cheer to welcome Garcia back into the fold.
"There were a couple guys who had to give me a little bit of a hard time," Garcia said.
Asked why the Bucs always seem to be linked to available quarterbacks, Garcia demonstrated his sense of humor about the situation.
"Jon Gruden loves quarterbacks," Garcia said. "But he wants to date, he doesn't want to marry."