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Garcia dismisses Favre rumors, asserts he is team's starter

Jeff Garcia knows what's it's like to be coveted by Jon Gruden, so it hardly surprises him that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are smack dab in the middle of speculation about Brett Favre's future.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Jeff Garcia knows what's it's like to be coveted by Jon Gruden, so it hardly surprises him that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are smack dab in the middle of speculation about Brett Favre's future.

Even after a season in which Garcia led the Bucs to a division title and was selected to play in the Pro Bowl for the fourth time.

"He loves quarterbacks," Garcia said Monday. "But he likes to just date. He doesn't like to marry."

That doesn't necessarily mean the 38-year-old, preparing for his 10th NFL season, thinks his days as Tampa Bay's starter are numbered.

Garcia reported to training camp after being excused from the first three days to attend a reunion for the junior college team his father coached to a national championship in 1973 and reiterated his belief that Tampa Bay's offense is already in good hands.

The Bucs have yet to state publicly whether they'd be interested in acquiring Favre if the still-retired Green Bay star applies for reinstatement to the NFL and is either released or traded by the Packers.

Speculation about possible suitors has focused on the Bucs and New York Jets. Gruden has grown weary of daily questions on the topic.

"I worry about our football team. I really just prefer keeping this conversation to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers," Gruden said between practices at Disney World. "Jeff Garcia is our starting quarterback. We're in the fourth day of training camp, and we want to play a lot better football than we did last season."

Garcia signed a two-year, $7 million contract as a free agent in March 2007 and was the biggest reason the Bucs won the NFC South after finishing 4-12 the year before, throwing for 2,440 yards and 13 touchdowns and just four interceptions in 13 starts.

Although he has been unhappy with the lack of progress on a contract extension, he insisted Monday that he is focused on preparing for the season -- not the absence of a new deal or the Bucs' supposed interest in Favre.

"I can't really comment on what's been happening, but I don't think I should have to comment because as much as it could concern me if certain things do take place, those things are out of my hands," Garcia said.

He's also not upset that neither Gruden nor general manager Bruce Allen have taken advantage of numerous opportunities to unequivocally state publicly that they are not interested in bringing in Favre.

A former Canadian Football League star who spent his first five seasons in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers, Garcia said he's accustomed to having to prove his worth to clubs over and over.

Despite the rumors about Favre, he's enthusiastic about the prospect of playing with the same team two years in a row for the first time since leaving San Francisco after the 2003 season.

He was with Cleveland in 2004, Detroit in 2005 and Philadelphia in 2006 before signing with Tampa Bay.

"You would think there would come a time where you feel like you've got to a certain point in your career where there aren't any questions any more about your abilities, or what you're capable of doing, or what you give or bring to a team. But obviously those questions are still out there," Garcia said.

Teammates have been supportive while avoiding getting involved in the debate over whether the Bucs should be pursuing Favre.

"I just don't think we should overlook what we have in house right now," defensive tackle Chris Hovan said. "Not anything against Brett, not anything against anybody. But I know how talented, and what a leader Jeff is for our team."

Garcia wouldn't speculate on how he'll react if Favre does wind up in Tampa Bay. But he did joke that if it happens, and the Bucs send him elsewhere, that he has a home he could offer the replacement.

"If (Favre) comes in, as much as the accolades are huge on that side, I'm the starting quarterback, and it's going to be a battle," Garcia said.

"That's just my attitude. I'm the starter here. I'm going to choke it to death until somebody pulls my grip off of it."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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