Garcia: 'I didn't want to leave way I did'

In a wide-ranging interview, Jeff Garcia covers a spectrum of topics regarding the 49ers and Buccaneers and playing quarterback for both teams.

Q: What is the sense in the locker room with getting no Pro Bowl selections? You guys kind of got the shaft.
Garcia:
I think it's been the feeling like that all year long. This team has coasted under the radar and we haven't had a lot of national exposure, and we're fine with that. As much as it's rewarding to the individual players around the league and I think there were players in this locker room that were very deserving, but our more important focus is about what the team is doing and what we have going on as a team and how its important for us to continue on the next task at hand, and that's traveling to San Francisco and playing another football game and preparing for our playoff placement. I think that's been how this team has focused on itself all season. We aren't a team made up of a bunch of individual stars. We're more so about executing as a team and making it happen as a team. For that not to be recognized in individual rewards or Pro Bowl nominations, we just deal with it and move on.

Q: Is it a motivational factor that you haven't received a lot of national exposure?
Garcia:
I think that's been somewhat of a motivation for this team. We don't play any primetime games. We don't have any sort of special attention. The fact that we won the NFC South division was sort of downplayed in the records of the rest of our South division opponents. It's just one of those things where whatever people want to say, that's there own right. We know what we are all about. We're a very competitive football team. We've overcome a lot of injury and a lot of situations where guys had to come in and step up and put themselves on the radar without any recognition prior to that. We just keep handling our business and are excited about where we are headed as a team. We are focused and extremely motivated and that's the key to our success this year.

Q: Now that you've won your division, what are you playing for in the last two games?
Garcia:
I think it's more so to find out how to iron out certain mistakes that take place during the game. Really try to find a way as a team, especially as an offense, to start clicking on all cylinders. That's where we need to be and where our focus needs to be. I don't necessarily feel playoff positioning is really an important factor. I think it's more about hitting the playoffs at full stride on a roll playing the best football we can play. That's what it comes down to for us right now.

Q: Last time you came here, you were a backup. Have you given any thought to what it would be like to come in and play in a different uniform?
Garcia:
I was there last year with the Eagles and I didn't get a chance to get on the field. Now I get to go back there as a starting quarterback of a team that is going on to playoffs. It's a real exciting time for me knowing that what we have achieved this year has been very positive. We've been able to come together as a team and then for myself to travel back to the area that I grew up in is exciting for me. It's going to be an emotional day for me. I know I'm going to have a lot of friends and family for support in the stands. It's right around Christmas time, which is great for me to be able to spend time with them and see them for a brief moment, but more importantly to go back and play against the team that really gave me a chance to play in the NFL. I'm really thankful for everything that I was able to experience as a 49er. It was a dream come true for me. A lot of great things happened to me while I played out there. I've seen the highs and lows of football ever since I left San Francisco, and that has been at times difficult to deal with, but I think it's also helped me grow up as a player and a human being. I just look at all the reward that took place for me on the field in San Francisco. The friendships that I made, the teammates and coaches that I had. All those things were very positive and I look forward to my return.

Q: Do you ever think you should still be here? Did you want to leave the way you did?
Garcia:
No, I didn't want to leave the way I did. I never really wanted to or expected to play for another team in the league. I really felt that my loyalties were right there with San Francisco and I talked about this in the past about the 10-year wall. How I walked by that wall every single day in the 49er facility and how badly I wanted to be a part of that wall because there were so many great faces on that wall and it really meant something to have that consistency and loyalty to a team. But unfortunately, at the time that I was released, the 49ers wanted to head in a different direction and they felt like it was important to clear some of their financial burdens, so they released not only me but a handful of veterans who I felt were important to the success of that team. That's the nature of the business we work in. It's the unfortunate side of the business, but that's what I had to deal with at the time and I was forced to move on.

Q: Have you kept track of what the 49ers have been up to since you left and is it surprising to see their struggles?
Garcia:
It is a surprise to see them struggle because of what everybody has been used to in the Bay Area. All the fans that have watched that team for the past 25 years are more used to seeing the team compete for championships than to see what they have seen over the past four or five years. I'm sure that has been difficult for the players and coaches that are there and for the people that are part of the organization because I'm sure that they are trying to do everything in their power to create a winning edge and situation. When you have guys like Bryant Young and Jeff Ulbrich and Derek Smith and some of the guys who have been there through some of the good years and now having to experience some tough years, those are the guys I remember – what they brought to the field every day in terms of their work ethic, competitiveness, drive, and motivation. I feel bad for those guys because of the struggles that have been taking place. I know everybody there is trying to overcome that and turn this thing around.

Q: Do you hope to end your career in Tampa?
Garcia:
I really hope that it is. I'm very tired of moving. I'm tired of all the trips to Bed, Bath, and Beyond for all the new sheets for the beds and new towels. All of those things start to wear on you. I feel like I found a good place here in Tampa playing under Coach Gruden. I'm so happy and excited about what I've been able to be a part of here and I feel like that can continue to build and grow over the next four or five years. I do know that there was a time where I was beginning to look at football as a one year game for me, but at this point I feel like I can give another three or four quality years. I feel like I can play at a high level and Tampa Bay has allowed me to feel that way and to do those things.

Q: Did you feel underappreciated here coming off the heels of Joe Montana and Steve Young?
Garcia:
I think if you look at what has happened since I left, the consistency at that position has struggled a little bit. There are different reasons for that, but that's for them to figure out. As far as the appreciation, I felt like people did appreciate. But I was also the outsider coming in. I wasn't a high draft pick. I wasn't coming in with a lot of recognition. I was on a much smaller scale than what Steve Young or Joe Montana were able to come in with. They were a part of that team obviously for a lot longer than I was able to be a part of it. But I felt like I was able to handle my own when I was there. I felt like I did a lot of positive things. I brought a lot of positive things to the field. I know that I was competitive every single weekend. I know that I gave everything within me to win football games, and there were a lot of rewards that did come out of it. The playoff games, the Pro Bowls, but I think due to the fact that I came from Canada, that I was out of a smaller college, I didn't come in with all the hype that a first or second round pick or a highly regarded free agent would come in with, it was one of those things that you had to earn your own respect. I had to earn the respect of my coaches. I remember Coach Mariucci, early on didn't know a lot about me. I had to earn his respect and the appreciation from my teammates and the rest of the coaches. But I never had a problem with battling those sorts of obstacles. I felt like going there after a Joe Montana or a Steve Young was a great challenge for me. I wanted to be that next quarterback they talked about. I think if my career had been in San Francisco for either my entire career or a longer length and we were able to continue to have the success on the field, that maybe that would have happened. But it ended after five years and I had to move on. I had to experience different cities and situations. Then I was able to find a couple places that became comforting to me and rewarding again. I feel like I have continued to grow and improve as a player. That's one of those things I really feel they would have been able to still have as part of them as a player who was motivated to better himself every year and week.

Q: What does Bryant Young mean and what was it like having him as a teammate?
Garcia:
Bryant Young is the ultimate professional and ultimate 49er. The guy has been an ambassador for the team in the sense that he is everything you want not out of player, but out of a person. He is the type of person you want your son to grow up to be like because he is all about doing what is right, not only for himself, but also his family and for the organization. My opportunity to play with Bryant Young was one of the best teammates that I've been able to be around because of his work ethic, leadership, and attitude in the locker room. That will be extremely missed if he decides to retire. He has had a great career. He's overcome some serious injuries. If you watch him on film, he's still a force. He's still somebody that has to be reckoned with on weekly basis because of his inner drive that he brings to the game. He has been everything 49er fans should be proud of and should look at as the force and voice of the 49ers.

Q: Can you imagine being in the league for six years never playing and then all off a sudden be playing like you've been playing every week?
Garcia:
I didn't realize until earlier when I looked at the roster that this was his (Shaun Hill's) sixth year in the league and I didn't realize that because like you said he has basically come from obscurity. He hasn't had many opportunities to play the game, but what I think he has taken advantage of is he has been able to grow and listen from the mental standpoint. And that has carried over to his performance on the field. He has done a great job of executing the offense for the past one and a half weeks, of being out there on the field. He's been accurate and a good decision maker. And all that coming without all the repetitions to grow. He's had to really do that in the heat of the battle. And I give a lot of credit for how he has responded to this opportunity. And that's what playing in this league is all about. You don't get a lot of opportunities throughout your career especially when you don't come in with all the accolades that many of theses other players come in with and when that opportunity presents itself, you really have to take advantage of it and that's really what he is doing.

Q: Does it surprise you that a quarterback can slip through the cracks like that given all the money that goes into evaluations?
Garcia:
It happens every single year. It doesn't surprise me because I am so used to seeing it. I don't know if there is a way of re-evaluating the evaluation process, but somehow someway there are players out there that are tremendous football players, tremendous quarterbacks, that for some reason just don't get somebody excited about them as far as giving them that opportunity. Some of us have to go through different leagues or bide our time until we do get that opportunity. That's what Shaun has done. Hopefully because of what he has done, that recognition will give him an opportunity to be a player that has a long career.

Q: Can you tell when a player has it?
Garcia:
I feel like I can. I feel like I'm a pretty good judge of personnel as far as the quarterback position goes. I feel like I can see a quarterback who first of all mentally who understands and grasps what a team is trying to do as an offense and what a team is trying to do as a defense to defend them. And then obviously having the physical skills to carry out their decisions. I believe that I can see those type of things. I'm sure its more difficult than that and it's not as easy as that, but I'm not the one making those decisions and I'm thankful for that.


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