Bucs QB Garcia still can't get comfortable

TAMPA

Days before Jeff Garcia was to lead the Bucs into a home playoff game against the New York Giants, he seemed completely at peace. His wife, Carmella, was expecting the couple's first child. He would later be named to replace Brett Favre in the Pro Bowl.

Carmella was asked how it felt, after Garcia had played for five teams in five years, to know they would be staying in Tampa Bay for at least another season. No more trips to Bed Bath & Beyond. No more moving companies to call.

"I don't know if Jeff will be here next year," she said matter-of-factly in January. "In this business, you never know what can happen."

It sounded preposterous, but she was right. Despite taking three teams to the postseason, Garcia always feels like the quarterback somebody is trying to replace.

Favre has decided he is not ready to retire and could be traded or released. Naturally, speculation is that the Bucs are interested. Jon Gruden coached in Green Bay the first three seasons Favre was with the Packers. He even picked the quarterback up at the airport when he was traded from Atlanta.

Nobody at One Buc Place has said publicly the team is interested in Favre, 38.

As the Vikings have learned, that could constitute tampering. But there are no rules against ending speculation by saying that you have no interest in the Packers' iconic quarterback. The Redskins and Jets have done so.

The sound of silence probably annoys Garcia. He's already irked by losing at least $1-million in play-time incentives last season when the club decided to hold him out against the Texans and Panthers while playing him just one half at San Francisco. He is 38 and talks of an extension are nonexistent.

Favre, who went 13-3 and led the Packers to the NFC title game but lost to those same Giants, can still play at a high level. Gruden knows he would energize the team and the city.

But isn't that what Garcia did last season?

He passed for 2,440 yards with 13 touchdowns and four interceptions. He finished with a 94.6 passer rating. In fact, three of those interceptions came in a loss to Jacksonville.

Garcia helped win the NFC South and won over his teammates in the locker room.

Considering the work the team has done in the offseason with Garcia, he likely is the quarterback who is the most prepared to win in Tampa Bay this season.

While the Bucs run a version of the West Coast offense, it has evolved so much under Gruden that even Rich Gannon didn't recognize it when he sat in on a quarterbacks meeting while doing a game for CBS.

Could Favre adapt quickly enough to Gruden's offense? Could the players adapt to him?

This is not fantasy football. If the Packers were inclined to trade Favre, it's unlikely they would deal with an NFC team, let alone one they play Sept. 28 in Tampa. There is the salary cap and draft picks to be considered.

In five days, the Bucs report to training camp at Celebration Hotel. On Saturday, Garcia will take the first snap under center. His surroundings will look familiar, but he might not feel at home.

TALIB TALKS: Talks have accelerated on a contract with first-round draft pick Aqib Talib. His agent, Todd France, has met with GM Bruce Allen in Tampa. It appears the Bucs have made the 22-year-old cornerback a priority over their other unsigned rookies.

Bucs QB Garcia still can't get comfortable 07/19/08 [Last modified: Monday, July 21, 2008 1:40pm]

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