Fired-up Garcia happy to be starting

Injury-riddled 49ers QB returns today vs. Ravens

Nfl Week 13

November 30, 2003|By Vittorio Tafur | Vittorio Tafur,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Going against the Ravens' defense is no easy task, but Jeff Garcia will take it. Just a week ago, Garcia seemingly was on his way out as the starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers.

He had been sidelined a month with a high ankle sprain, Tim Rattay had stepped in and played well, and the buzz in the Bay Area was that Rattay was better suited to coach Dennis Erickson's deep passing schemes, and cheaper, as well.

Then San Francisco played the Green Bay Packers.

The 49ers were drilled in Green Bay, Rattay was ineffective and callers to sports talk shows started praising Garcia again. The 49ers (5-6) announced Wednesday that Garcia would start against the Ravens today.

"He's probably healthier than he has been all year," Erickson said.

Erickson, in his first season, was asked whether he knows what Garcia can do, considering he arrived at training camp hurt. "I guess we'll find out," Erickson said.

Garcia played through back, wrist, groin and ankle injuries, as well as a concussion, before giving way to Rattay for three games.

Rattay went 2-1 with seven touchdowns and two interceptions and seemed to have better on-field chemistry with flamboyant receiver Terrell Owens. Then, San Francisco lost its fifth straight road game and people suddenly remembered that three-time Pro Bowl quarterbacks aren't supposed to lose their jobs when they're hurt.

"Tim did a great job, but Jeff is our guy," fullback Fred Beasley said.

Garcia was in uniform for the past two games, and some wondered whether Erickson's waiting for him to be "fully healthy" was just buying Rattay more time to win the job outright.

Before the Packers game, Garcia expressed frustration that he could be written off so quickly, but this week he didn't mention that.

"I'm going to come out with a lot of energy and enthusiasm," said Garcia, who was 129 of 235 for 1,523 yards, eight touchdowns and eight interceptions in eight starts. "That [competitive] fire was able to regenerate itself just by watching from the sidelines."

He even took notes.

"In ways, I was able to learn some things from Tim," Garcia said. "I am more frantic in the pocket. He's calmer. He was able to allow routes to develop and put the ball where he needed to put it, and he made plays.

"At times, that's what needs to be in my game, as far as being a little more patient."

That will not be easy, as the 49ers' offensive line is again banged up, and Garcia is better scrambling or throwing on the run than sitting in the pocket.

Plus, it's hard to train yourself not to give up on a passing play with the Ravens' defense breathing down your neck.

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