San Jose Mercury

Garcia, Gruden cross paths again
January 09, 2003

By Dennis Georgatos
Mercury News

Jon Gruden considers himself a good judge of talent, but he conceded that his initial assessment of Jeff Garcia was off the mark, and that's putting it mildly.

``I totally admit I dropped the ball,'' the Tampa Bay coach said Wednesday.

Gruden was coaching the Raiders when he oversaw a January 1999 workout of Garcia. He decided to pass on the Canadian Football League quarterback before signing first-round flop Andre Ware to back up Rich Gannon.

Garcia landed on his feet with the 49ers, where he has earned three consecutive Pro Bowl berths and led the team to the playoffs two seasons in a row. Garcia and Gruden will cross paths again Sunday when the 49ers and Buccaneers meet in a second-round playoff game in Tampa, Fla.

``He's an unbelievable competitor and certainly very talented,'' Gruden said. ``I let him know that I certainly whiffed and missed on that evaluation.''

Garcia, who won NFC player of the week honors for his four-touchdown performance in San Francisco's 39-38 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday, said he was mystified by Gruden's choice of Ware. But he has been appreciative of subsequent compliments.

``He has always been very positive as to the way I play the game,'' Garcia said. ``When I went to work out for him, he really didn't have any idea of what I was capable of doing. At the time they had Rich Gannon, who was starting to become one of the top quarterbacks in the league. Everything has worked out.''

You know, that team

Gruden didn't mention the Raiders by name during a 20-minute conference call with reporters. Instead, he referred to them as Coach Bill Callahan's team, the place where he came from and a team that previously employed him.

But he did borrow a well-known Raiders phrase when discussing the Buccaneers' chances for victory Sunday.

``Whether it be with the kicking game, a solid defense, the play-making on offense, whatever it takes, that's the bottom line,'' Gruden said. ``Just win, baby! That's what they say around here. Just win.''

Special-teams help

Veteran linebacker Terry Killens was signed to bolster the 49ers' special teams. Unit coordinator Bruce DeHaven said Killens would play on kickoffs, punts, kick returns and punt returns against Tampa Bay.

A seven-year veteran, Killens led the 49ers with 25 special-teams tackles last season. He appeared in three games for Seattle after being let go by Denver during training camp.

Safety Jason Moore was released.

Tackle Derrick Deese (ankle), guard Ron Stone (ankle) and receiver Terrell Owens (groin) were held out of practice but are expected to play Sunday. Cornerback Jason Webster (ankle), who also did not work out, remains questionable.

The 49ers signed tackle Austin Lee, a Stanford product, to their practice squad.

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