Press Pass: Jeff Garcia

In this edition of "Press Pass," Buccaneers quarterback Jeff Garcia talks about the Carolina defense, his appreciation for the Tampa Bay-Carolina rivalry and his previous success against the Panthers in this premium feature.

On what he has seen from Carolina

They're still a good defense, quality players on the defensive side of the ball. Good front four, very strong, very physical, still two or three of the best corners in the league playing on that side of the ball. I think because they still have a couple of new safeties that they're still getting acclimated to their role there within the team. We have to expect the best out of them. This is a big rivalry, a traditional game for both teams. It's something that we have to look forward to; an intense, physical football game, especially in terms of their defense.

On the rivalry between the Panthers and the Bucs in the past

I can appreciate it. I can see how it can be a very big game, especially early in the season. With both teams coming in 2-1, looking to take that next step to grab a strong hold on the division. It will be a tough game. I think going back and hearing stories about the past four to five years, the things that happened, I realized how big of game this is for Tampa, for the city here. We just want to go out there and execute well and really concentrate on things that we've been doing well the last two weeks and continue to build on those things.

On his success facing Carolina

You realize it's going to be a tough game, it's going to be physical. Last year, playing in Philly, for most of the first half we couldn't get anything going offensively. It was just one of those grind it out type [of] mentalities. That's the type of mentality you have to have. You can't get discouraged by not having success early on in the game. It's going to be that type of game. We just have to continue to keep pounding on the door and hopefully at some point we can make some plays and create some opportunities for our guys and allow them to step up and make some plays. It's going to be physical, it's going to be difficult and you can't quit. You can't give up, you have to play 60 minutes of football. You have to expect to play 60 minutes. Like games in the past, they've gone in excess of 60 minutes here between the Panthers and the Bucs. That's something that we expect to face and that's the type of mentality you have to have going in. You have to be strong-minded throughout the entire game. You can't allow yourself to be discouraged or let yourself down because of the difficulties and whatever frustrations you may be experiencing.

From a quarterback's perspective, there's a chance that Jake Delhomme might not start and David Carr might for Carolina. What kind of an affect can that have on Carolina?

He's new to the team (Carr), but I'm new to this team. He's in a situation where he's started plenty of games in the past. They have some weapons on the offensive side of the ball. Obviously Steve Smith is a big playmaker and they're going to try and do everything they can to get the ball in his hands. They're going to fight through whatever adversity they have to overcome to try and make it right. I'm not so much concerned with that side of the ball than our defense is. Hopefully he struggles and we can take advantage of it. They're going to come out fighting, with their weapons loaded, and we have to do our part to handle that.

Can you talk about the importance of this game, in terms of being in the driver's seat of this division?

It's early in the season, but it's important. It's important whenever you face a team in your division and it's important that we go out and find a way, or learn how to win on the road. That's a difficult thing to do in this league. We weren't too good in our first experience this season in Seattle and it's time to turn that around. We've been fortunate to be at home the last two weeks. But we're going to a hostile environment against a great opponent and it's an opportunity for this team to step up and show what kind of character it has, what we're made of from the inside out. I think that's the challenge that we have to step up to this weekend and we couldn't ask for a better opportunity than going to Carolina and trying to take care of business there.

On the identity of the football team

I think, as in years past, when the team had been successful, the tone was being set by our defense. They're playing great football. I think when you look at Tampa you remember the good years and you remember the defense; that's what stands out. Obviously, on the offense side of the ball, I want to make it to a point where we're handling our own business and we're taking care of what we need to take care of on the field. The last couple of weeks we've been able to do that, but I'm looking for more consistency out of our offense. I'm looking for a better start out of our offense. I do not want to be in positions where we are always having to scratch and claw our way back. We need to find ways to be explosive in the first quarter. That's the key to being a good football team — to be consistent, to have that continuity and to be able to create and maintain drives from the beginning of the game. That will help our defense out and keep them out of bad situations. Right now we've asked a lot out of our defense, they're playing a lot of minutes on the field. Let's turn that around and become a better ball-control team, a more explosive team and a team that is able to experience more consistency on the field.

One of the words guys use when they talk about you is leadership. Can you feel that from the guys on offense and what responsibility does that trust carry for you?

I think, first of all, I expect that out of myself. It's expected out of the quarterback position, so it shouldn't come as a shock to me. I fully anticipate and appreciate being able to be that guys for this team. I want to help lead this team and again, it's not that I single myself out. I always put myself in a position where I'm helping this team. It's not a situation where I shoulder the whole burden. We all have to step up. We all have to find ways to lead in our own ways. But as far as I'm concerned, it's about stepping out of that huddle and having fire on the field. It's about overcoming adversity sometimes during the game. It's about helping this team bail itself out of difficult situations. And it's about decision making. It's about going out there and executing what we have called, what we expect to do as an offense and eliminating mistakes. I think if I continue to do those things, not only do I show that (leadership) through example as to how I play, but it also starts to pick up the energy level and expectations of my teammates around me.

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