Garcia rejected by Raiders before coming to S.F.

The Oakland Raiders had the first shot at Jeff Garcia. Like many others in the NFL, they passed. That ultimately worked out pretty well for both the 49ers and Raiders, but Garcia hasn't forgotten the details of his first NFL rejection slip, or the team that issued it.

Garcia has come too far in his career since then to hold a grudge. Reaching two Pro Bowls, earning league-wide respect and securing the multi-million dollar contract that comes with it will do that for a player. But if Garcia has extra incentive to beat any team, it's the one wearing silver and black.

After leading the Calgary Stampeders to the CFL championship and earning Grey Cup MVP honors in 1998 - his fourth consecutive all-star season north of the border - Garcia felt he'd done all he could do in Canada. It was time for him to explore opportunities at the highest level of professional football.

His first stop was the Raiders.

"They were my first workout," Garcia said. "Right after Christmas, I went over to the Oakland facility and worked out for the whole coaching staff. Obviously, I didn't do enough to impress them in order to garner a tryout or a workout, or a minicamp opportunity. Basically, they said they weren't interested."

That hurt. So did a decision the Raiders made shortly after Garcia's workout, when Oakland signed Andre Ware to a contract that ostensibly would have gone to Garcia if he had made more of an impression with the team's brass.

"I couldn't believe that took place," Garcia said. Ware quickly became a bust with the Raiders and never made it with the team.

But Garcia sure made it with the Niners. After tryouts with several other NFL teams, Garcia was back in the Bay Area the next January working out with the Niners, and this time his search was over. Bill Walsh signed him to a contract to compete for the backup job behind Steve Young, and the rest is history.

"It worked out for both of us," Garcia said. "Unfortunately, I wasn't offered a contract by the Raiders at that time. But down the road, I was offered one from San Francisco, so I was still able to complete that dream of coming home and being back in the Bay Area."

Garcia has made the most of that dream, and on Sunday he'll be competing in the middle of it. But on a different side than he first might have expected.


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