Sacramento Bee

Streets prefers the quiet path over a fast lane
January 10, 2003
By Mike Triplett -- Bee Staff Writer

SANTA CLARA -- Everyone knows Dwight Clark made "The Catch." They won't soon forget John Taylor's and Terrell Owens' last-minute heroics, either.

But Sunday, Tai Streets made the game-winning touchdown catch to cap the greatest comeback in 49ers playoff history. Then he promptly returned to relative obscurity.

Maybe if he were more well-known, like Owens, or maybe if he were a less-known oddity, Streets would have received a little more acclaim after the 49ers' dramatic 39-38 victory over the New York Giants.

Instead, he fits right in the middle, barely noticed.

Just the way he likes it.

"It's no big deal," Streets said Thursday, after a week as a wallflower. "I don't really care about the attention or anything like that. We won. It was a team effort. I'm happy."

He paused for a moment, then added, "I'm not a very good interview."

Streets had a breakout season, his fourth in the NFL after being drafted out of Michigan, where he won a national championship as a junior. He supplanted J.J. Stokes as the second starting receiver in Week 6 when Stokes missed three weeks with a knee injury, and he finished a very respectable 12th in the NFC with 72 receptions for 756 yards and five touchdowns.

Streets becomes an unrestricted free agent at season's end, but he'll probably re-sign with the 49ers in a very quiet ceremony that doesn't receive any fanfare.

Streets said he must have learned his quiet ways from his mother -- the woman who named him after Olympic figure skater Tai Babilonia. He said while many players like to play at an emotional high, he fights to keep an even keel when he plays.

"I'm excited, but I try to stay on an even keel, good or bad," Streets said. "I try not to make any moment bigger than the other."

That includes Sunday's catch -- a 13-yard strike from Jeff Garcia with one minute remaining. Streets had five catches for 58 yards in the game, including a 25-yard wobbler from Owens on a reverse option.

Streets did keep the touchdown ball, and he gave it to his father, who was in attendance. But the catch itself was nothing special. It hit him right in the breadbasket, really a pretty routine throw and catch without much fanfare.

And that suits Streets' style just fine.

Dropping the ball -- Jon Gruden may have crossed the country, but he didn't escape blame for missing the boat on Garcia. When Garcia defected from the Canadian Football League in 1999, he had a workout with Gruden's Raiders before he tried out for the 49ers. The Raiders passed, choosing instead to sign Andre Ware, who never made the roster.

"I obviously didn't do a very good job evaluating that workout," Gruden admitted in a conference call with Bay Area media this week. "We'd just signed Rich Gannon, and Jeff was a veteran player coming from the Canadian League, and I probably went into the workout thinking Rich is a new guy coming in here taking all the reps, and we probably need to find a younger guy with less ambition than Garcia had.

"I totally admit, again, that I dropped the ball."

Garcia said he was pretty shocked to see that the Raiders signed Ware, but he did admit that he doesn't stand out in one-on-one workouts; that he is more of a gamer. Looks as if it worked out for everybody.

Owens, Giants fined -- Owens was fined $10,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct for shoving Giants cornerback Omar Stoutmire out of bounds in Sunday's game.

Stoutmire was fined $7,500 for his retaliation, and Giants safety Shaun Williams was fined $10,000 for his own taunting and for throwing a punch at Owens. When the teams met in September, Williams, Stoutmire and Giants defensive back William Peterson were also fined for taunting.

Webster questionable -- Cornerback Jason Webster still has not practiced because of a sprained ankle, and he is questionable for Sunday's game at Tampa Bay.

Rookie Mike Rumph might make his second consecutive start in Webster's place.

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