The Oakland Tribune

York remains upbeat in postgame talk
January 13, 2003
Garcia questions decision to run out

By Roger Phillips STAFF WRITER

TAMPA, Fla. -- When it was all over, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had their 31-6 victory Sunday over the 49ers, owner John York addressed his players, trying to bolster their crushed spirits with talk of a future Super Bowl.

"I told the team separately, and then I went and told the coaches that the way we want to finish the season is we want to finish the season with a celebration in the locker room," York said.

"That's what this organization is going to do. It wasn't this year. But you have to congratulate them for where they brought us this year, and we pick it up from there."

Of York's postgame speech, linebacker Julian Peterson said, "It was more of an encouragement thing. He never came at us like, 'You all stink, and you're the worst team in the country.' He never came at us like that. It was just all positive stuff, stuff to look forward to next year."

But the 49ers have plenty of work to do if they are to bring everyone back next season. Though many of the players on this year's NFC West champions already are under contract for next season, several others are heading into free agency.

Perhaps the most significant free agent could be receiver Tai Streets, who is coming off his best season. Streets caught 72 passes for 756 yards and five touchdowns during the regular season and caught the winning touchdown pass in last week's wild-card victory over the New York Giants.

Others heading into free agency include starting defensive end Chike Okeafor, long snapper Brian Jennings, backup safety Ronnie Heard and backup quarterback Tim Rattay.

NOT DARING: Some of the 49ers expressed disappointment that the coaches chose to run out the clock at the end of the first half. Trailing 28-6 after allowing a Mike Alstott touchdown, the 49ers got the ball at their 31 with 50 seconds left.

Garrison Hearst had a 9-yard run on first down, and the 49ers then let the clock expire. Coach Steve Mariucci said he decided it was better to head to the locker room at halftime, try to regroup, then hope to do something after getting the opening kickoff in the third quarter.

Quarterback Jeff Garcia said, "After we had the first run that went for pretty good yardage, I thought we were in a position to work a couple of throws down the field and potentially come away with an attempted field goal.

"But the decision of the coaches was to somewhat play it conservative and just go in at halftime without making any more mistakes. That's their decision, and I live with it. I looked over to the sidelines to see if we wanted to call a timeout after Garrison broke off the run, but the answer was no. We were just going to huddle up and let the clock run out."

PLUMMER'S INJURY: Cornerback Ahmed Plummer left the game on Tampa Bay's second offensive possession when he dislocated his right shoulder while making a tackle on Buccaneers receiver Joe Jurevicius.

Plummer said he is hoping the injury will not require surgery.

"They popped it back into place, and it looked good," said Plummer, his arm in a sling. "Hopefully, it can heal on its own."

When he was hurt, Plummer joined fellow starting cornerback Jason Webster on the sidelines. Webster missed his second consecutive game with a sprained ankle. Defensive coordinator Jim Mora said the team held out hope until Sunday morning that Webster would be able to play.

Plummer's injury meant playing time for Duane Hawthorne, who was signed a month ago for depth after being released by Dallas. Before Sunday, Hawthorne had played only on special teams for the 49ers.

"You could probably count on one hand how many practice snaps he's taken," Mora said. "And now all of a sudden he's out there in your nickel group, and he's playing, and he's fighting. Thank goodness we had the guy."

NOT SPECIAL: The 49ers' problems began Sunday when they lined up to punt from Tampa Bay's 40-yard line with the game still scoreless in the first quarter.

The idea was to pin the Bucs deep in their territory, but punter Bill LaFleur couldn't even pin Tampa Bay inside its 20-yard line. He managed to propel the ball a mere 14 yards, and the Bucs responded by driving 74 yards for the first points of the day.

It was a dismal special-teams day for the 49ers. Vinny Sutherland fumbled away one kickoff, and Tampa Bay's Aaron Stecker returned a kickoff to his own 48-yard line after the 49ers had trimmed an early deficit to 14-6.

In addition, a 31-yard punt return by Sutherland in the third quarter was nullified by a penalty on Mike Rumph for an illegal block above the waist.

PICKING THE POCKET: Team consultant Bill Walsh maintained that the playing style usually the most effective for Garcia was the most counterproductive against the Bucs, and that he should have played more conventionally against this particular speedy defense.

"The one thing that Jeff couldn't do in this game that he always does is get out of the pocket and start running and throw," Walsh said. "Today, they'd just catch him immediately. He had no chance. So he would best have stayed in the pocket. If he stayed in there, he was effective. The minute he left there, they caught him. That's probably a good lesson for Jeff and a good lesson for all of us to remind ourselves."

Bucs tackle Warren Sapp said that Tampa's defensive strategy was to flush Garcia out of the pocket and then chase him down.

"It wasn't something that we were concerned about, his scrambling ability and stuff like that," Sapp said. "The thing we were worried about was his ability to step up in the pocket, and that's what we wanted to eliminate. It was a real emphasis for us all week to get a push up the middle so when he got ready to step up there was nowhere to go. We wanted to lead him somewhere where we could get him."

WALSH'S GUARANTEE: In the wake of such a lopsided loss, Walsh tried to inject a little levity into the dour postgame mood by looking ahead to next year's scheduled game with Tampa Bay.

"We play'em next year, and we'll win that game, I guarantee it," Walsh cracked. "I'll predict it. Of course, I'll be living down on the Monterey Peninsula."

Staff writer Carl Steward contributed to this report.

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