Garcia Fitting In As "one of the guys"

Quarterback Jeff Garcia has been a welcome addition to the Detroit Lions football club. Garcia strengthens the quarterback position - regardless of whether his role is as a backup or as the starter. Analysis plus comments from Garcia and head coach Steve Mariucci inside.

ALLEN PARK - Quarterback Jeff Garcia has been a welcome addition to the Detroit Lions football club. Garcia strengthens the quarterback position - regardless of whether his role is as a backup or as the starter.

The wealth of experience that he brings to running coach Steve Mariucci's version of the West Coast offense, his rapport with his teammates and his honesty about his expectations and his goals for this season have made him a popular guy with the coaching staff and his teammates.

Having a former pro-bowl quarterback come into a situation where you have a young starter could have been a recipe for a splintered locker room, but the entire Lions team, including both starter Joey Harrington and Garcia have handled the situation in a professional manner. Much of that is due to the professional attitude Garcia brings to the situation.

"His (Jeff Garcia) attitude has been great," said Mariucci of Garcia. "He has handled [the situation] very well from day one; Joey has handled it; the coaches have handled it. He has not created any controversy, he understands his role. He is very ready, willing and able to play. The quarterback position is just more solid then it has been in a while here in Detroit."

Mariucci indicated that having a quarterback in reserve who's been around the block a few times is a comforting thought. "I liked Mike McMahon at the quarterback position, the only thing was that he did not have a lot of experience under his belt and that was what hurt him. Last year at the quarterback position, we would go from one young guy to another inexperienced guy. That is always kind of a shaky situation for a coach because you only have youngsters at the quarterback spot. We did not have that crafty veteran who had been there and done that before. Now we have that type of guy."

Garcia endured a difficult year in Cleveland a season ago. Former Browns coach Butch Davis never fully committed to the West Coast offense despite giving the veteran assurances that they would use the system. Feeling somewhat out of his element, the seven-year pro had one of the worst seasons of his career, completing a career-low 57.1% of his passes for just 1,731 passing yards.

Coming to Detroit and being reunited with Mariucci, who coached him to three straight pro-bowl appearances, Garcia has regained a comfort level he never felt in Cleveland.

"It's been real positive," said Garcia of his move to Detroit. "It's been a positive transition in the sense that I am coming to (this situation with) some familiarity with the coaching staff and with the system. That made it an easy transition, so to speak. Obviously having to get moved in and move the physical stuff that has been the most difficult part of it. I am excited about everything that is going on this off-season, and what I can offer to this team and hopefully I can bring some positive things on the field."

Overall, he likes what he sees in the young wide receivers that Detroit has chosen with their last three first round picks in the NFL draft, but he wants the trio to push themselves - and each other - to reach their full potential.

"When I worked with Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens," Garcia continued, "the thing about what made them such great pros was their work ethic. They outworked everybody on the field, not only on practice days, but during the off-season and on Sundays. It definitely showed up on the field on Sundays because of their work ethic. They were mentally in tune, they were physically sharp. Those are the things that I think these guys need to understand."

"They've been put on a pedestal because they're first-round draft picks; they come in with a huge amount of physical talent. I think what they need to understand is how important it is to stay mentally sharp, mentally focused, and just the extra work that it takes outside of what people are asking of you. You need to demand more out of yourself. That's what the difference is in what I see right now as opposed to a Jerry Rice, a Terrell Owens, to a Roy Williams, Charles, Mike Williams. These guys have great skills and great gifts of the game. It's a matter of buckling down and taking that extra step as far as putting in that extra work. I think they'll be fine; I think that if they can realize that and start to compete against each other out here, it's going to only make them better on Sundays."

Garcia also commented on his relationship with starting quarterback Joey Harrington.

"It's very positive. Obviously there is some competition there. I (have) come into a situation where I'm not used to being a backup. I'm used to being on the field, contributing. My attitude here is that I'm going to push him to be the best that he can be. In the meantime, I am going to try and be better than I've ever been.

"Whoever that guy ends up being on the field on Sundays hopefully is going to be able to contribute to help this team win football games. I think that's the major thing going on right now, I think there's a real solid relationship that we have been able to develop during this off-season as far as in meetings, as far as being interactive on the field, being able to talk about situations, being able to somewhat grow together. I'm not in here to make it a negative situation. I'm here to make it a positive situation, but I also want to be that guy on the field. So I am going to push him to hopefully be better than he's ever been in the past. If that means we're winning football games then I'm doing my job."

That's the kind of positive "can-do" attitude that endears Garcia to both the coaching staff and his teammates because, regardless of who's on the playing field, the bottom line for the Lions after three consecutive losing seasons is winning football games.

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