Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Players Welcome Back Garcia In Their Own Way
LAKE BUENA VISTA - To hear Antonio Bryant tell it, there is a collection of Bucs rookies who gather around him every day to hear his philosophy on life. "They think I've got wisdom," the oft-troubled wide receiver said, "so they ask me, 'What's the word today?' And I give them something." The word Monday was humble, as in being left for dead by 32 teams for nearly a year tends to humble you. Few know that better than Bryant. After the 49ers - his third team in two years - let him go last year, it wasn't until the Bucs rescued him in March that he surfaced again.It's no wonder, then, that Bryant has kept a low profile. His comments Monday were the first since he signed with the Bucs and they may be his last. "The biggest lesson I've learned is be slow to speak and quick to listen," Bryant said. Bryant learned that lesson the hard way, by being kicked off the Cowboys and the 49ers for skirmishes with coaches Bill Parcells and Mike Nolan, respectively. Now Jon Gruden is his coach, and Bryant promises that under Gruden, he will do things Gruden's way. At least once. "I tell receivers Coach Richard Mann, 'I'll try it your way.' I'll give 'em a little taste," Bryant said. If the Bucs like the taste of what Bryant gives them, he could solve a big problem at receiver. After all, no one has ever questioned his talent. He was good enough to be drafted in the second round by Dallas and good enough to be given a four-year, $14 million contract by Cleveland four years ago. Those run-ins with the coaches, though, derailed his career and now that he's had a taste of life out of the NFL, he seems determined to stay here. "I know how to play this game," Bryant said. "Right now I'm going to undersell you and over-deliver. That's just how I feel. I'm just coming to play football." Intensity Level Up, Interest Level Up Jeff Garcia picked a good day to make his camp debut. Monday was the first day the players were in pads, and throwing the pads on always increases the intensity level and the interest level of camp workouts. Not everyone welcomes the first day in pads because the pain associated with practices also increases. But most of the Bucs players were glad to get back into a true football environment. "They were heavy in this hot sun, but it felt good to get to bang around a little bit," LT Donald Penn said. "There's no touchy-touchy stuff. You're really hitting and getting physical. "I mean, people can do a lot in shorts but you really find out who you are when the pads go on. The coaches are going to evaluate this film hard because you really find out what kind of players you have when the pads go on." DL Kevin Carter has been putting on the pads for 14 years and he realizes that it's all part of the process of conditioning a team for the long grind that lies ahead. "Everything we're doing here is a necessary evil," he said. "We've got to get some good hard warm days in pads in, and we've got to hit so much that it hurts and then we have to get past that point of physical discomfort. "When you start getting tired and start getting sore, then you need to go out and hit some more so that you're body is deeply conditioned for what we're doing here." As you might expect, QB Jeff Garcia received some good-natured ribbing upon his arrival at camp on Monday. For the most part, Garcia was hit with some highly sarcastic greetings and a few not-so subtle reminders that reporting day was Friday. LB Derrick Brooks took the whole thing to another level, though. During an 11-on-11 drill, Brooks suddenly called a timeout just before the snap, took off his helmet and walked up to greet Garcia with a handshake. That was followed by a healthy round of applause from the rest of the players. "I appreciate the ribbing," Garcia said. "I know they care about me as a teammate and as a player and they know I felt bad that I wasn't here with them to start training camp." Garcia missed the first two days while attending a reunion of the junior-college football team his father coached to a national championship in 1973. LT Donald Penn said the ribbing was their way of showing respect for Garcia. "You've got to do stuff like that sometimes to keep it fun," Penn said.