Garcia has been ripped repeatedly by Owens

BEREA, Ohio -- Jeff Garcia didn't even have to drop back to
pass on Monday and the Cleveland Browns had his back.

With outspoken and outlandish wide receiver Terrell Owens and
the unbeaten Philadelphia Eagles coming to town for a game Sunday,
Garcia's teammates are already in a protective mode.

Since leaving San Francisco as a free agent, Garcia has been
ripped repeatedly by Owens, his former teammate with the 49ers who
is off to a great start with the Eagles.

In his recently released autobiography, in magazine interviews
and on television, Owens has criticized Garcia's ability. He has
also questioned the quarterback's sexuality.

Six days before the Browns (3-3) face one of the NFC's strongest
teams, the Garcia-Owens issue is taking center stage without either
of them saying anything juicy -- yet.

Browns tight end Aaron Shea dismissed Owens' nonstop criticism
of his new QB.

"You hear it because he's got a big mouth. He's one of those
guys," Shea said. "It's unfortunate some of the stuff that he
said that isn't true."

In an interview with Playboy magazine in August, Owens was asked
if he thinks Garcia is gay. Owens responded: "Like my boy tells
me: 'If it looks like a rat and smells like a rat, by golly, it is
a rat."

Garcia, who frequently battled with Owens while the pair played
together in San Francisco, called the comments "ridiculous and

Owens backed off on that remark, saying, "I'm not sure if Jeff
is gay or not." But Owens hasn't missed a chance to take a shot at
Garcia at every chance.

Owens, who has already caught 30 passes for 487 yards and six
touchdowns this season, renewed his anti-Garcia trash talking late
last week.

On HBO's "Inside the NFL", Owens said he would have posted
better statistics in San Francisco if he had played with a
strong-armed quarterback like his new Philadelphia teammate,
Donovan McNabb.

"He (Garcia) threw the ball behind me, out of bounds," Owens
said. "I left a lot of touchdowns on the field throughout the last
two or three years."

Browns safety Earl Little defended Garcia and said he wished
Owens would move on to something else.

"He is a good quarterback," Little said. "He's been to the
Pro Bowl a couple times. I don't think he (Owens) was saying he was
a bad quarterback when he was out there with him in San

After throwing four touchdown passes in a win over Cincinnati on
Sunday, Garcia was asked about his feelings as he prepared to play
against Owens for the first time.

"It's not about myself playing T.O.," he said. "It's not
about a one-on-one battle. It's about the Browns playing the
Eagles. He has moved on and he's doing great job for Philly. I've
moved on and I'm trying to handle my own here."

And whatever Garcia can't handle, his teammates seem willing to
take care of. Little said the Browns are determined not to let the
Owens-Garcia rift be a distraction this week.

"We're not even worrying about what T.O. has to say," he said.
"Other than you guys asking me about it right now, we're not even
going to let it come into our locker room.

"It's not about T.O., it's all about the Philadelphia Eagles
playing the Cleveland Browns. We don't want this to be no kind of
distraction or anything like that. We're trying to go 4-3, and win
another ballgame."

Shea doesn't think Garcia will allow Owens or his mouth to shake
his focus.

"I think Jeff is the bigger man," Shea said. "Why get into a
war of words when stuff isn't true. I think that's stupid and
childish on his (Owens') part."