Gritty Garcia won't be gone long

It's amazing, really, that Jeff Garcia was able to string together 61 consecutive regular-season starts for the 49ers, a team record for a quarterback and the fifth-longest streak for a QB in the NFL. Garcia has taken a series of tremendous hits during that time, and he battled through back, groin and arm problems to keep it alive this season. Don't expect his ankle injury to keep him down long. "This is just a minor bump in the road and I will be back from it sooner than later," Garcia said.

Nobody should doubt that.

Garcia, who tips the scales at slightly less than 190 pounds, is one of the NFL's toughest, grittiest players. He has proven that over and over with the Niners, and the end to his impressive starting streak only brings to light how durable he has been.

"To play 60 straight games is pretty impressive," Niners coach Dennis Erickson said. "And as relentless as he plays, it might be even more impressive. Playing 60 straight games at quarterback in this league is probably not done very often."

After injuring his ankle in the second quarter last week at Arizona, Garcia missed a few series and then returned to finish the game, taking big hits in the open field and putting the Niners in a position to win the game at the finish.

The next day, he said he had every intention of playing this week. But, as high ankle injuries often go, his condition got worse instead of better during the week as slightly torn and strained ligaments and muscles shut down. The only way to get them better is rest.

"He wants to play," Erickson said. "But he also knows that he can't perform at the level that he has to for us to win."

So Garcia, who had hoped to take the chance he still could play up to game time Sunday, did not protest for the sake of the team when Erickson decided to rest him this week.

That's not to say it wasn't easy.

"The disappointing part is not being able to be out there and being a part of helping this team overcome the situation we're in," Garcia said. "This is somewhat the most challenging time for this team, and just the fact I can't be out there trying to contribute as much as I can to help the cause is what's most disappointing to me. As far as a team player goes, I think it's probably the right decision to allow Tim (Rattay) to concentrate on what he needs to do in order to help this team.

"It's been one of those unfortunate things this season so far that I just haven't ever really gotten out of the red into a more positive situation. It somewhat has been a nagging injury holding me back every single week. Hopefully, this will give me an opportunity to somewhat heal up, but it was not really what I was looking forward to, not what I was hoping for."

But it's what Garcia needs. His kind of injury can keep players out a month, but expect Garcia to be back in action - and beginning another streak of starts - when the Niners return from their bye week for a Nov. 17 Monday night game against Pittsburgh.

"When I look at it, it's an ankle sprain," Garcia said. "When (doctors) look at it, it's torn ligaments and strained ligaments and strained muscles and all those things that come into play that obviously are not allowing me to get on the football field right now and allowing me to feel good enough to the point where I can push off (and) do the necessary things that I have to do on the field in order to compete.

"In a normal world, (doctors) said this could be longer than just a week, longer than just two weeks. But to me, this is hopefully going to be the only game that I miss. I don't think anybody's sure, but I know I can play through pain. I have played through pain all my life."

Not to mention almost four full NFL seasons of starts.


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