Warrior Mentality Sets Early Tone, Inspires Teammates
Sprinting right on a busted first-quarter play, a hand grabbed Jeff Garcia's helmet. His neck twisted. His face mask tore his mouth, and his helmet flew off as a he ran into a pile of Rams at Tampa Bay's 7-yard line.

'When he came back to the huddle, he had blood dripping from his teeth,' Bucs wide receiver Michael Clayton said. 'What did he do? He called the play, spit out the blood and said, 'Let's go.''

A few minutes before that play, Cadillac Williams switched direction with Rams on his heels. Garcia (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) found himself between Williams and a charging blue shirt with No. 91 on it. That was 6-3, 265-pound defensive end Leonard Little.

Garcia threw a block on Little. Williams gained 3 yards. Add it up and those two plays gained 7 yards. What they said about Garcia, starting his third game for the Bucs, was a much larger point.

'He's a warrior, a guy who fights for every little thing,' receiver Ike Hilliard said. 'And it's inspiring to see a guy fight for years the way he has and come out here and battle the way he does.'

From San Jose State to the Canadian Football League to San Francisco and other NFL stops, little has changed in Garcia's warrior mentality. On Sunday, after the 24-3 victory against St. Louis, Garcia, 37, stood in front of the red Bucs backdrop and before a room of cameras and talked about how once again he found a way to get it done.

'It was a grind-it-out mentality,' said Garcia, who completed 14 of 22 passes for 151 yards. 'I think from my standpoint, it's about efficiency. It's about not putting us in bad situations. I think we have enough good plays, good opportunities, good looks where I can make the right decision to give our guys opportunities to make plays.'

Then he went on to praise the offensive line (over and over again), the running backs, receivers and, yes, the defense and coaches. When asked what he said to Clayton after he dropped a pass and then fumbled two plays later, Garcia was, well, Garcia.

'I told him to battle through it,' Garcia said. 'I said, 'Keep your head up. Put those two behind you and let's keep going.' There might have been some other words in there, but that basically was it. We're all professionals here, so really, not a lot needed to be said. Hey, I believe in Clayton. I know he can do it.'

And, finally, what about the blood and getting the helmet ripped off? 'Ah, that was just a fat lip,' Garcia said. 'That was nothing.'

Scott Purks, The Tampa Tribune 24 September 2007