Someday, the former teammates may be able to talk, shake hands
and repair their ruptured relationship. And maybe, just maybe, they
can become friends again.
Someday. Not this week.
On Sunday, when the Cleveland Browns host the unbeaten
Philadelphia Eagles, Garcia and Owens will be as close in proximity
as they've been since playing together for five stormy seasons in
Both players spent part of Wednesday addressing their ongoing,
mostly one-sided feud, a clash of personalities fueled by Owens'
repeated bashing of the Browns' new quarterback.
Garcia doesn't understand Owens' anger or the relentless
criticism from one of the NFL's most opinionated players.
In his autobiography and during interviews, the brash,
Sharpie-wielding wideout has ripped Garcia's playing ability and
leadership skills. Owens has even questioned Garcia's sexuality.
"I don't know why he can't let it go," Garcia said. "I mean,
it's unfortunate because I've never looked at T.O. as being an
enemy of mine. I don't know where the anger or the negativity or
the criticism comes from, and why certain comments have been made,
because he's known my situation in the past.
"He's always known my girlfriends, things like that, and to
have the things said that have been said, I just don't know where
it comes from."
Garcia insists he has moved on, and he just wishes Owens would
do the same.
Never one to dodge a question, Owens has dished out some
damaging verbal shots at Garcia since the two parted following last
season. Owens, though, maintains his comments directed at Garcia
have been blown out of proportion.
"I haven't criticized him as of lately," Owens said. "I think
everybody is just getting reports from the book. You're the ones
that won't let it go. I've let it go since training camp."
In an interview last week, Owens went on the attack against
Garcia again. He said the three-time Pro Bowler doesn't have a
strong arm, is an inaccurate passer and if Owens had played with a
better QB in San Francisco he would have better stats.
Owens defended his renewed assault on Garcia.
"I was answering a question," he said. "What do you want me
to do, stare at the camera? This shouldn't be about me and Jeff.
I'm not going to be on the field at the same time he's going to be
on the field, so it shouldn't be about us."
Oh, but it is.
The Garcia vs. Owens matchup is the featured subplot as the
Browns (3-3) try to legitimize another turnaround season against
one of the NFC's powerhouses.
The history between the two stretches to 1999, when after
starring in the Canadian Football League, Garcia replaced Steve
Young as the 49ers' starter.
In his first season with Garcia as his quarterback, Owens caught
60 passes. He went on have 97, 93, 100 and 80 receptions the next
four seasons, twice leading the league in TD catches.
Someone had to pass him the ball, yet Owens seems unwilling to
admit Garcia was the one who threw it to him.
The pair went to three Pro Bowls and made two playoff
appearances as one of the league's most lethal pass-and-catch
combinations. But there were problems, too.
Garcia was constantly trying to keep Owens happy. If the
talented wideout wasn't complaining about getting the ball, he was
at odds with the coaches.
Garcia got pulled in both directions, which is why he took
exception to Owens' assertion that all the 49ers' struggles could
be traced to the quarterback.
"Have somebody step into my shoes and feel what I had to deal
with throughout that whole time in San Francisco," Garcia said.
Garcia insists he went out of his way to fix things. At one
point, he sought advice from the team chaplain. But when Garcia
found peace, Owens would inflame things.
"The dust would start to settle, and all of a sudden, more fuel
was thrown into the fire," Garcia said. "It was such a negative
Garcia hasn't given up on a positive ending, and said he's
willing to take another stab at patching up things with Owens.
"I want to go to bed at night knowing that things are all
fine," he said.
The way Owens sees it, things already are.
Asked if he would talk to Garcia this weekend, Owens didn't
sound as if he would be doing much socializing.
"No," he said. "For what?"