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Healthy Garcia comes back to practice for the Buccaneers

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia returned to practice Monday after being sidelined 10 days by a right calf strain, an injury overshadowed by the Buccaneers' pursuit of Brett Favre as a possible replacement.

Even before Garcia, a Pro Bowl selection last season, was hurt on July 31, the Bucs were in the middle of speculation about Favre, who came out of retirement and was traded from Green Bay to the New York Jets last week.

The Bucs were suitors at the end of the saga, too, although general manager Bruce Allen has said they never made an actual offer for the quarterback.

"At this point, it's water under the bridge. There's no reason to dwell on it," Garcia said. "I'm thankful that things worked out where I was able to stay and be the starting quarterback here. ... When it's all said and done, that's what really matters to me."

Garcia has been unhappy with the lack of progress on a contract extension and didn't try to mask his feelings about the Bucs' interest in Favre when he reported to training camp two weeks ago.

The 38-year-old missed eight practices, plus Saturday's preseason opener at Miami, after straining his calf during a non-contact drill. Although he didn't participate in all phases of practice Monday, just being back on the field represented significant progress.

"It's getting better. Unfortunately it's a slower process than I would hope it would be. ... But I'm making strides in the right direction," Garcia said.

Coach Jon Gruden said it's too early to predict whether Garcia will see any action in Sunday's preseason game against New England.

"Obviously, he's very questionable. We'd like to get him to the point where he can operate at full speed again," Gruden said. "And until he can, we won't play him. But it's good to have him in the huddle, that's for sure."

Asked if he had any hard feelings about Gruden's attempt to acquire Favre, Garcia hesitated for an instant and deadpanned: "I'm just a journeyman, according to some people. Why should I have any hard feelings? I'm thankful to have this job. I might pay Bruce and Jon."

The four-time Pro Bowl selection smiled.

"What am I going to say? It's the unfortunate part of the business. That's what this sport is. It has two sides. It's obviously a game for all of those who play on the field and who love to play the game. But there is a business side, too," Garcia said.

"Part of teams trying to reach championship position is trying to strengthen their team. Whether they felt that was strengthening or not, as much as I believe that I could be a strong point for this team, that is what they had to look into. So be it. It's all said and done. We're moving forward."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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