Owens says it's history
Someday, the former teammates may be able to talk, shake hands and repair their ruptured relationship. And maybe, just maybe, they can become friends again.
Someday. Not this week.
On Sunday, when the Cleveland Browns host the unbeaten Philadelphia Eagles, Garcia and Owens will be as close in proximity as they've been since playing together for five stormy seasons in San Francisco
Both players spent part of Wednesday addressing their ongoing, mostly one-sided feud, a clash of personalities fueled by Owens' repeated bashing of the Browns' new quarterback.
Garcia doesn't understand Owens' anger or the relentless criticism from one of the NFL's most opinionated players.
In his autobiography and during interviews, the brash, Sharpie-wielding wideout has ripped Garcia's playing ability and leadership skills. Owens has even questioned Garcia's sexuality.
"I don't know why he can't let it go," Garcia said. "I mean, it's unfortunate because I've never looked at T.O. as being an enemy of mine. I don't know where the anger or the negativity or the criticism comes from, and why certain comments have been made, because he's known my situation in the past.
"He's always known my girlfriends, things like that, and to have the things said that have been said, I just don't know where it comes from."
Garcia insists he has moved on, and he just wishes Owens would do the same.
Never one to dodge a question, Owens has dished out some damaging verbal shots at Garcia since the two parted following last season. Owens, though, maintains his comments directed at Garcia have been blown out of proportion.
"I haven't criticized him as of lately," Owens said. "I think everybody is just getting reports from the book. You're the ones that won't let it go. I've let it go since training camp."
In an interview last week, Owens went on the attack against Garcia again. He said the three-time Pro Bowler doesn't have a strong arm, is an inaccurate passer and if Owens had played with a better QB in San Francisco he would have better stats.
Owens defended his renewed assault on Garcia.
Oh, but it is.
The Garcia vs. Owens matchup is the featured subplot as the Browns (3-3) try to legitimize another turnaround season against one of the NFC's powerhouses.
The history between the two stretches to 1999, when after starring in the Canadian Football League, Garcia replaced Steve Young as the 49ers' starter.
In his first season with Garcia as his quarterback, Owens caught 60 passes. He went on have 97, 93, 100 and 80 receptions the next four seasons, twice leading the league in TD catches.
Someone had to pass him the ball, yet Owens seems unwilling to admit Garcia was the one who threw it to him.
The pair went to three Pro Bowls and made two playoff appearances as one of the league's most lethal pass-and-catch combinations. But there were problems, too.
Garcia was constantly trying to keep Owens happy. If the talented wideout wasn't complaining about getting the ball, he was at odds with the coaches.
Garcia got pulled in both directions, which is why he took exception to Owens' assertion that all the 49ers' struggles could be traced to the quarterback.
"Have somebody step into my shoes and feel what I had to deal with throughout that whole time in San Francisco," Garcia said.
Garcia insists he went out of his way to fix things. At one point, he sought advice from the team chaplain. But when Garcia found peace, Owens would inflame things.
"The dust would start to settle, and all of a sudden, more fuel was thrown into the fire," Garcia said. "It was such a negative situation."
Garcia hasn't given up on a positive ending, and said he's willing to take another stab at patching up things with Owens.
"I want to go to bed at night knowing that things are all fine," he said.
The way Owens sees it, things already are.
Asked if he would talk to Garcia this weekend, Owens didn't sound as if he would be doing much socializing.
"No," he said. "For what?"
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press