Jeff Garcia once famously stated that Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden isn’t one to commit to a quarterback.
"He likes to date, but not to marry," Garcia said.
When incumbent starter Brian Griese left the game after a hit by Bronco cornerback Champ Bailey, Gruden turned to the veteran who had taken his team to the playoffs last season with efficient, mistake-free football.
In a heartbeat, all seemed forgotten: the missed playing time and appearance bonus, the summer flirtation with Brett Favre, the lack of a new contract, the list of nagging injuries that hindered Garcia throughout training camp—all ancient history.
"Jon called me over and he just said, 'You need to get back to being you,'" Garcia said. "'Not worry about what has happened, not worrying about trying to score two touchdowns in one series, that's not going to happen. Let's just take one play at a time and be yourself. Scramble. Make things happen. Be the guy you've been in the past.'"
And with those magic words, Garcia was back. Some speculated he would never see another snap in a Buccaneer uniform. But Garcia responded with a 90-yard drive, completing nine passes, including a seven-yarder to Ike Hilliard for the Bucs' only touchdown.
"I want to compete. I want to give back," said Garcia. "Depending on what the situation is, I'll do everything I can do to make sure I'm prepared and ready to play next week."
He may well do just that. With the division-leading Carolina Panthers in town on Sunday, that NFC South matchup is looking like a must-win game. A healthy Garcia gives them a fighting chance.
“I had to see with my own eyes," Gruden said. "I wanted to see him throw the ball on time, crisp. I wanted to see his movement again. Now I'm seeing more and more of that. When Jeff does get healthy and he gets all the traits that Jeff Garcia has back, he's going to be fine."
Though the result wasn't in the Bucs' favour, Garcia believes he proved that Sunday, to his coach and to his teammates.
Maybe he has a future with the Bucs after all.
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