SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Though Terrell Owens has feuded with
coaches and criticized teammates during his tumultuous tenure with
the San Francisco 49ers, he had always stayed on his quarterback's
good side -- until now.
The relationship between Owens and Jeff Garcia appears strained
after a disastrous weekend trip to Minnesota for the 49ers, who
fell to 1-3 with a 35-7 loss to the Vikings.
Owens directed blame and shame at his entire team during a
postgame diatribe at the Metrodome -- and for the first time, Garcia
was a target. Owens stopped just short of suggesting the three-time
Pro Bowl quarterback should be benched after finding his All-Pro
receiver for just five catches for 55 yards and no touchdowns.
On Monday, the 49ers' quarterbacks and receivers watched film
together as usual. Garcia and Owens didn't say a word to each
"Either we're all in this together, or some changes have to be
made," Garcia said. "This is a team effort, and there's not any
one individual that is above the team."
Coach Dennis Erickson met with Owens in the morning, but he
didn't discipline his star receiver for the latest in a long line
of questionable behavior. Owens didn't speak to reporters Monday.
"Obviously, I didn't like what happened yesterday," Erickson
said. "It will not be tolerated any longer, basically."
Owens threw a sideline tantrum during a loss to Cleveland the
previous week, and he lost it again after the Vikings turned back a
fourth-and-1 running play on the Minnesota 31 in the third quarter.
Owens stormed off the field and chewed out offensive coordinator
Greg Knapp, the subject of a similar tirade in the Browns game.
"What happened with Coach Knapp is just something that I don't
care for," said Erickson, who called the running play.
Owens' oblique criticisms of Garcia were grounded in fact.
Garcia might have played his worst game for San Francisco, going
11-of-23 for 108 yards and three interceptions before giving way to
backup Tim Rattay in the fourth quarter.
"That's not my position to say we need a quarterback change
but Rat did a good job when he was in there," said Owens, who also
admired Rattay's 37-yard TD pass to Tai Streets. "It's been a long
time since I've seen that. He threw it deep and gave us a chance.
That's all you can ever ask as a receiver."
Garcia took responsibility for his poor play, which was abetted
by a lingering groin injury. But Garcia couldn't overlook Owens'
impetuous decisions to air his complaints to reporters, who have
rarely heard Owens' voice in the last two years except in anger or
pleasure after games.
"Sickness can spread," Garcia said. "We're trying to do our
best possible job to not allow that sickness to spread.
"All the wins that we've had over the past two or three seasons
are because this team came together on the football field. It
wasn't because of one individual making exceptional plays, and all
of a sudden we're finding ourselves on top of other teams. It
doesn't happen that way."
The rest of the 49ers haven't yet decided what to make of Owens'
comments. Some are sticking behind him despite his declaration that
the 49ers have no heart.
"People are taking it the wrong way," linebacker Jamie Winborn
said. "Everything that's said is said to everybody. Nobody points
fingers on this team. Guys get emotional. The guy really cares and
wants to win. In my opinion, you need to have people on your team
Raw statistics don't back up Owens' complaints about a lack of
involvement in the 49ers' offense. He has 25 catches for 299 yards,
which translates to 100 catches and nearly 1,200 yards over a full
season -- numbers that would satisfy nearly any receiver except
But after a difficult offseason rehab from torn muscles in his
groin and legs, Owens expected to have a spectacular season with
the arrival of Erickson, who was expected to open up the 49ers'
West Coast offense.
In addition, Owens is in the final year of his contract; he's
hoping to land a signing bonus of more than $15 million for the
most important deal of his career.
Erickson isn't worried about a growing frost between Owens and
Garcia. He believes a 1-3 team has bigger problems than the
personality conflicts that have defined the 49ers during Owens'
"I don't care if they talk to each other as long as they're on
the same page when they throw it and catch it,'' Erickson said.
"They've been playing together for a long time."