Garcia set for wedding, new challenge

Newly-acquired quarterback Jeff Garcia spent his first week of practices with Tampa Bay getting acclimated with his new teammates and continuing his education in Jon Gruden's offense. But his wedding in northern California will disrupt that preparation and his quest to become the starting quarterback.

Jeff Garcia knows he's a bit behind Chris Simms in the race to be Tampa Bay's starting quarterback. But he believes this just might be his year anyway.

You see, Garcia has his old No. 7 back again.

"I think there are a lot of good things happening for me this year — coming to Tampa, getting married," Garcia said after the first batch of organized team activities ended. "It's 2007, (I'm wearing) No. 7. I think a lot of good things can happen this year."

Garcia struck a deal to get his favorite number from second-year pro Bruce Gradkowski. Garcia declined to say what he had to give the Toledo product for the number, but he said it didn't come free. Gradkowski is now wearing No. 5, which, oddly enough, was Garcia's number in San Francisco.

Garcia said he's not superstitious. It's just that he's comfortable in the number and has had great success wearing it. In Canada he led the Calgary Stampeders to the 1998 Grey Cup title. Last year in Philadelphia he resurrected the Eagles' playoff hopes after a season-ending injury to Donovan McNabb.

"When I had a chance to get seven again, it was one of those things where — call it crazy, having a certain ritual or whatever — it was just one of those things I feel good in and I know good things have happened in it," Garcia said.

A jersey number won't allow Garcia to overtake Simms for the starting job. It'll take plenty of dedication to learning Jon Gruden's intricate offense, one that Garcia says is nothing like the West Coast offenses he was exposed to in San Francisco, Detroit or Philadelphia.

"He's (Gruden) taken it to another level," Garcia said.

Garcia has spent most of his time since his signing catching up with the Bucs' playbook. He felt he had a pretty good grasp going into the OTAs. Gruden had Garcia work mostly with the second and third team, though he said the reps were divided pretty equally between him and Simms.

It's the mental adjustments Garcia said are the biggest hurdles. He'd like to have the offense down cold heading into training camp so all he has to do is take the field and react. Right now there's still too much thinking about the mechanics of the play itself.

"Things are not as sharp as I want them to be mentally," Garcia said. "Physically I think I was able to get in there and compete."

Gruden hasn't named a starter, and both Simms and Garcia consider this a competition. But Simms may have a chance to distance himself a bit in the next few weeks as Garcia heads back to northern California to marry former Playboy Playmate Carmella DeCesare. Garcia said he won't miss any of the OTAs scheduled for May and will be in contact with quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett to catch up on the meetings that will go on in his absence.

"I will be receiving meeting scripts and what they're doing to stay on top of things," Garcia said. "Then (I'll) be here when I can be here and make the most of those times."

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