Garcia's approach rubbing off in Cleveland

Updated: September 28, 2004, 1:42 PM ET
By Chris Mortensen | ESPN Insider
You may have noticed that at times in print and on television and radio, I have referred to Jeff Garcia as the "toughest guy in football."

I did so because I have seen many declarations that Steve McNair is that guy, or Brett Favre, or Ray Lewis. True enough, they are tough guys. So is Peyton Manning, who has his own consecutive playing streak, which includes a stint with a broken jaw. And to play football in the NFL at a high level, your toughness should never be questioned.

But have you ever seen Garcia in person? I mean, he's in terrific physical condition for a 34-year-old man but, for comparison sake, McNair is 6-foot-2, 240 pounds and Garcia is about 6-foot, 187 pounds.

Garcia plays with abandon – sometimes reckless abandon. I've always admired him, but he completely won me over in a game last season with the 49ers. He was playing with a bad ankle and, more critically, a degenerative (sometimes bulging) disc in his back. And he played this particular game like the Super Bowl, without regard to the long-term effects of the horrific collisions he endured (and caused) while trying to put a W in the win-loss column. On one of those collisions – a desperate, successful launch into the end-zone – he actually made me think he was crazy. He was playing against the Arizona Cardinals!

"I know the game you're talking about," Garcia said Monday. "It's just the way I play the game."

The point being, Garcia is out to prove himself on every play in every game.

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