Garcia says he's the starter

Jeff Garcia heard all the talk about Brett Favre while he was gone over the weekend. But as he stood in front of the media Monday morning, he made it clear that he feels he's the starting quarterback, even if the Bucs won't end the Favre rumors themselves.

How did the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fare on Monday morning at training camp? Find out here. Learn how QB Jeff Garcia looked in his first workout, which wide receiver had an off day, which cornerback had a great day and where the Bucs offense had some trouble. It's an exclusive from Get the scoop right here.

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Jeff Garcia understood why the media room was full at Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp. In his absence over the weekend the rumor mill spun full tilt regarding Tampa Bay's interest in Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre.

So when he returned Monday he made one thing clear — he is the starting quarterback and he's going to "choke it to death" unless someone takes it away from him.

Garcia was absent for the first two days of workouts due to a family obligation in California. He returned Sunday night and bounced around the field with fresh legs on Monday morning, his first official workout.

But he spent most of his post-practice interview session talking about Favre, the speculation surrounding Favre and whether the Bucs acquiring Favre might affect him.

It seems every time a quarterback hits the open market the Bucs are interested. It's a fact of life Garcia, 38, has gotten used to.

"Gruden loves quarterbacks," Garcia said with a smile. "He loves to date, but he doesn't like to marry."

The line drew plenty of laughs, but it may also explain why the Bucs have not announced publicly that they have no interest in Favre. Instead, rumors persist that the Bucs are a potential trading partner for the Packers, despite the fact that Favre, who is retired, has not filed for reinstatement yet.

Garcia said Gruden has not come to him and specifically told him the Bucs have no interest in Favre, nor has Gruden specifically told Garcia that he's the starter. But Garcia feels Gruden doesn't have to and feels secure in his position. Garcia ended last season as the starter after leading the Bucs to a division title and is in the final year of a two-year contract.

He took all of the first-team reps on Monday.

"I am the starter and I don't question that," Garcia said. "I'm sure my name is at the top of the depth chart, wherever it is at the team hotel."

Garcia threw 13 touchdowns and four interceptions last year for Tampa Bay, but there is concern that his advancing age might leave him more open to injuries like the one he suffered against Arizona, a back contusion that kept him out for three games.

Logically, it must be of some concern to the Bucs, who have not addressed Garcia's desire for a contract extension. Garcia wants one because he's been a football nomad since he left San Francisco after the 2003 season.

While Garcia said his agent is dealing with the contract, it appeared to grate him just a bit.

"You would think that there would come a time when you feel you've established yourself and there are no more questions," Garcia said. "But obviously they are still out there. It's been an uphill battle to get people to appreciate what I can do on the field."

His teammates seemed to appreciate him. On Garcia's first play in 9-on-9 drills, LB Derrick Brooks attempted to take a time out, which threw off the offense's timing. On the next play, Brooks did it again. This time he took off his helmet and welcomed Garcia back as several other defensive players, including CB Ronde Barber, clapped their hands.

"I'm sure somebody put him up to that," Garcia said. "I knew I was going to take some ribbing today (for being late to camp). I know they care about me as a teammate and a player and they know that I felt back about not being here on time."

As for Favre, Garcia chose to take the high road, praising Favre's body of work as a professional and saying that Favre, with time, could pick up the Bucs offense. Brooks said that Garcia needed about 30 days to pick up Gruden's version of the West Coast offense last year, and Garcia has played in that system nearly his entire pro career. Garcia said he didn't feel truly comfortable until midway through the season.

Garcia did have experience with Green Bay's West Coast offense at the Pro Bowl and said the terminology is much different.

"I'm not saying he couldn't do it, but the (Bucs') system is extensive," Garcia said.

And if Favre does end up coming to Tampa Bay? Garcia said he would help the future Hall of Famer in any way he could.

Even if that means the Bucs decided to ship Garcia out of Tampa Bay.

"If they deal me or move me somewhere else, I'll have a home for him (Favre)," Garcia said.

Matthew Postins is the editor and publisher of

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