The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the field Tuesday for their second set of organized team activities of the offseason.
Quarterback Jeff Garcia participated in the voluntary workout, but he still is frustrated by his current contract situation.
Garcia, 38, is entering the final year of his deal with the Buccaneers. It is scheduled to pay him $2 million in base salary and also includes $2.5 million in not-likely-to-be-earned incentives.
Tampa Bay's front office and Garcia's agent, Steve Baker, have had dialogue regarding a contract extension for the Pro Bowl signal caller.
But according to Garcia, little progress has been made on that front.
"[The Bucs] have indicated to my agent that they'd be working something out or trying to work something out, but it's at a snail's pace it seems right now," said Garcia. "I have one year left on my contract. At the rate it's going who knows if it will actually happen before the season starts."
Garcia signed a two-year contract with the Bucs in March of 2007. He earned a $2 million base salary and received a $3 million signing bonus when he inked his contract.
However, Garcia missed out on at least $1 million in not-likely-to-be-earned incentives due to Tampa Bay's decision to rest him down the stretch once the Bucs had won the NFC South division title.
It is unclear what level of compensation Garcia is looking for. However, Garcia, who completed 209-of-327 (63.9 percent) of his passes for 2,440 yards and tossed 13 touchdowns and four interceptions in 13 games last season, is reportedly looking to be paid in the $7 million per year range.
Baker and Bucs general manager Bruce Allen were scheduled to discuss Garcia's contract situation on Friday, but Garcia said the Bucs canceled that scheduled conversation and a new one has not been scheduled.
"They were supposed to talk on Friday but for some reason that got pushed off until a later date," said Garcia. "I don't know when that time is going to be. That was the Bucs' decision to put it off longer. I try not to get caught up too much in it. I want to let my agent handle the business and do what is right for me and protect me. I'm trying to come out here, bust my tail and go through the OTAs with my team. I just want things to work out on the other end."
The lack of progress made on contract negotiations hasn't kept Garcia from participating in the team's voluntary OTAs, but he made it clear that an unresolved contract situation could have a negative impact on he and the Buccaneers.
"It is important for me to be out here with my teammates," said Garcia. "I think it's good for me because it allows me to stay sharp and continue to improve within the system. There might come a time where I might have to stand up. I would hate to do that and jeopardize my teammates because they're out here and I don't want to let them down in any sort of way. At some point you want to see the respect from up top given.
"I'm under center [when training camp begins]. But after a while it does start to play with you mentally. This is a physical game and you want players to go out and give everything they have and lay their bodies on the line and lay their hearts on the line. ‘Well, we want you to lay something on the line, too.' That's what it really comes down to."
The Buccaneers currently have $29 million in salary cap room. They are interested signing several players, including Garcia, to contract extensions, but must also allocate a portion of that cap room to signing their 2008 draft picks.
"I think we all know there is money to be worked with," said Garcia. "Hopefully all of that will work itself out. Right now I just want to focus on being here and improving myself.
"But there comes a time when [the team] wants us to bend over backwards and give everything we have. ‘Well, we want the same out of you.'"
In addition to talking about his own contract situation, the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Garcia said several Bucs players were worthy of new contracts, including running back Earnest Graham, who has chosen to not participate in voluntary organized team activities so far this offseason.
"There are a few players on this team that I believe should be rewarded," said Garcia. "One of those guys isn't here with us right now and I don't know if [his contract] is the reason. Earnest Graham had a spectacular year last year. In no way do I or anyone else on this team feel that was a fluke, but yet he's stuck on the bottom and he's a guy that we all believe as teammates and players in this business that should be rewarded. I don't think anybody here is trying to break the bank. It's about what your peers around the league are making and being respected and appreciated in that sort of way.
"I understand that [Bruce Allen] has us in a tough situation because we're under contract. We're obligated to play out that year. We understand that, but we also understand what contributions we made on the field last year and where people at our positions are being paid and where we're at. In that sort of way it just makes it real difficult to overcome when you think about the mental and emotional approach every single day. That's where you can become very negative and almost counterproductive as to what this focus of the team is because you're caught up in some of the negative situations above you."
Tampa Bay currently has seven quarterbacks – Garcia, Brian Griese, Luke McCown, Chris Simms, Bruce Gradkowski, Josh Johnson and Jake Plummer – on their roster. However, the Bucs only intend on bringing five quarterbacks to training camp.
Does Garcia plan to attend training camp if he does not receive the new contract he's looking for? When asked that question by the media on Tuesday, Garcia suggested he would honor the deal he signed with the Bucs last year.
"I never have [held out] and I've never felt like I've been in a position or a situation to hold out, and I've never really agreed with that sort of approach to things," said Garcia. "As a player I don't feel like that's right to my teammates. There are two sides to this game. It's a game, yes, but there's a business side, and that's something at some point that needs to be handled.
"I have a lot of faith, but from the way things have seemed to go in the past it doesn't seem to create a real positive picture for the future."
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