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News » Garcia continues to fight off Father Time

Garcia continues to fight off Father Time

Garcia continues to fight off Father Time
Unless a team pulls Vinny Testaverde out of mothballs at age 45, Brett Favre is the oldest starting quarterback playing in the NFL this season, and probably for seasons to come.

Favre is 39 years, 51 days young, and a big reason why the New York Jets are leading the AFC East and holding down the No. 2 seed in the AFC.

But he is not the only well-seasoned quarterback who has his team eyeing the playoffs.

The others are Tennessee's Kerry Collins (he turns 36 Dec. 30), Arizona's Kurt Warner (37), Minnesota's Gus Frerotte (37) and Tampa Bay's Jeff Garcia (38).

Garcia is last in the grouping because no one seems to be giving this ageless throwback his rightful due.

The best way to describe Garcia is he doesn't look the part of a big-time NFL quarterback. He's not the biggest, fastest or strongest player but he oozes grit, knows how to win and has the perseverance and doggedness of 10 men.

He is well-traveled, a journeyman in every sense, having played five years in the CFL and the past 10 seasons with five teams in the NFL. Last season he was voted to play in his fourth Pro Bowl after leading the Buccaneers to the NFC South title.

He has the Buccaneers in position to win the South again, provided they can successfully negotiate a challenging five-game closing stretch, beginning today against the Saints at Raymond James Stadium.

This season seems to mirror his career. Nothing has come easy.

It started in the offseason with his inability to negotiate a contract extension. Then he injured a calf in training camp and reports surfaced that the Buccaneers were interested in acquiring Favre who had decided to come out of retirement.

Garcia weathered that storm when Favre was traded to the Jets. But after losing to the Saints in the season opener 24-20, Coach Jon Gruden benched Garcia in part because of an ankle injury, though the quarterback claims he could play. The demotion to being the team's inactive third quarterback on game days seemed more in response to Garcia's poor performance than the injured ankle.

The Buccaneers prospered under backup quarterback Brian Griese, winning their next three games heading into Week 5 at Denver. With the score tied at 6 in the third quarter, Griese took a blindside hit from cornerback Champ Bailey that injured his right elbow and shoulder. Garcia led the Buccaneers to a fourth-quarter touchdown but the Broncos won 16-13.

A healthy and happy Garcia has been under center the past six games, leading the Bucs to a 5-1 record, 8-3 overall, and a share of first place with Carolina in the NFC South. Because of their 27-3 victory against the Panthers in Week 6, the Buccaneers own the tiebreaker and trail only the New York Giants (10-1) in the playoff seedings.

"I think the main thing as a player is that I need to play with emotion, I need to play with energy and I need to have a certain excitement about myself when I step on the Football field," said Garcia, who has completed 71.6 percent of his passes and compiled a 100.5 passer rating since regaining his starting job. "If I don't have that, I'm not who I need to be."

Garcia will not be the best quarterback on the field today in Tampa. That distinction belongs to MVP candidate Drew Brees, who's chasing Dan Marino's 24-year-old record for most passing yards in one season.

But there is no denying the amount of fight still left in this old Buc. Despite all the ups and downs and the obstacles placed before Garcia since leaving San Jose State in 1994, his will to win has not been compromised.

That feeling can keep a grizzled NFL quarterback young beyond his prime.

. . . . . . .

Brian Allee-Walsh can be reached at ballee-walsh@timespicayune.com or at 504.826.3805.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 30, 2008

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