Garcia has been ripped repeatedly by Owens

Updated: October 19, 2004, 3:59 AM ET
Associated Press

BEREA, Ohio -- Jeff Garcia didn't even have to drop back to pass on Monday and the Cleveland Browns had his back.

Jeff Garcia
Cleveland Browns
Att Comp PaTD RuTD Int Rat
160 90 8 1 6 79.8

With outspoken and outlandish wide receiver Terrell Owens and the unbeaten Philadelphia Eagles coming to town for a game Sunday, Garcia's teammates are already in a protective mode.

Since leaving San Francisco as a free agent, Garcia has been ripped repeatedly by Owens, his former teammate with the 49ers who is off to a great start with the Eagles.

In his recently released autobiography, in magazine interviews and on television, Owens has criticized Garcia's ability. He has also questioned the quarterback's sexuality.

Terrell Owens
Wide Receiver
Philadelphia Eagles
Rec Yds TD Avg Long YAC
30 487 6 16.2 55 81

Six days before the Browns (3-3) face one of the NFC's strongest teams, the Garcia-Owens issue is taking center stage without either of them saying anything juicy -- yet.

Browns tight end Aaron Shea dismissed Owens' nonstop criticism of his new QB.

"You hear it because he's got a big mouth. He's one of those guys," Shea said. "It's unfortunate some of the stuff that he said that isn't true."

In an interview with Playboy magazine in August, Owens was asked if he thinks Garcia is gay. Owens responded: "Like my boy tells me: 'If it looks like a rat and smells like a rat, by golly, it is a rat."

Garcia, who frequently battled with Owens while the pair played together in San Francisco, called the comments "ridiculous and untrue."

Owens backed off on that remark, saying, "I'm not sure if Jeff is gay or not." But Owens hasn't missed a chance to take a shot at Garcia at every chance.

Owens, who has already caught 30 passes for 487 yards and six touchdowns this season, renewed his anti-Garcia trash talking late last week.

On HBO's "Inside the NFL", Owens said he would have posted better statistics in San Francisco if he had played with a strong-armed quarterback like his new Philadelphia teammate, Donovan McNabb.

"He (Garcia) threw the ball behind me, out of bounds," Owens said. "I left a lot of touchdowns on the field throughout the last two or three years."

Browns safety Earl Little defended Garcia and said he wished Owens would move on to something else.

"He is a good quarterback," Little said. "He's been to the Pro Bowl a couple times. I don't think he (Owens) was saying he was a bad quarterback when he was out there with him in San Francisco."

After throwing four touchdown passes in a win over Cincinnati on Sunday, Garcia was asked about his feelings as he prepared to play against Owens for the first time.

"It's not about myself playing T.O.," he said. "It's not about a one-on-one battle. It's about the Browns playing the Eagles. He has moved on and he's doing great job for Philly. I've moved on and I'm trying to handle my own here."

And whatever Garcia can't handle, his teammates seem willing to take care of. Little said the Browns are determined not to let the Owens-Garcia rift be a distraction this week.

"We're not even worrying about what T.O. has to say," he said. "Other than you guys asking me about it right now, we're not even going to let it come into our locker room.

"It's not about T.O., it's all about the Philadelphia Eagles playing the Cleveland Browns. We don't want this to be no kind of distraction or anything like that. We're trying to go 4-3, and win another ballgame."

Shea doesn't think Garcia will allow Owens or his mouth to shake his focus.

"I think Jeff is the bigger man," Shea said. "Why get into a war of words when stuff isn't true. I think that's stupid and childish on his (Owens') part."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press