Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jeff Garcia has spoken out against what he perceives is a demotion from head coach Jon Gruden.
On Wednesday, Gruden announced that Brian Griese would be the starter for Sunday's home opener against the Atlanta Falcons because Garcia was listed as questionable following an ankle sprain suffered during a 24-20 loss to the Saints in Week 1.
Gruden also indicated that the decision was not solely based on the injury, saying "Jeff right now is not himself. We're going to give him a week off and try to get him ready to go. Brian Griese is a guy who's had a good training camp. We're going to give Brian the ball and rally around him. Hopefully, Jeff can get back ready to roll soon."
Garcia said on Thursday that he wanted the opportunity to bounce back against the Falcons.
"Having only played one game, I would have liked to have been given a chance to battle through whatever I'm going through," Garcia said. "I mean, there are some quarterbacks out there that played worse than I did last week."
Garcia, a former standout with the Calgary Stampeders, also said the sprain was improving and that he would be ready to play by Sunday if he were still the starter.
"I've played through a lot worse," said Garcia, who completed 24 of 41 passes for 221 yards, one touchdown and one interception against the Saints.
"Everybody in this locker room is going to play through some sort of pain, nick or injury."
Garcia, 38, helped the Buccaneers reach the playoffs with a 9-7 record last season, but he's been hit by a series of injuries prior to the team's training camp this season.
He missed most of camp and three pre-season games with a strained right calf and saw his preparation for Tampa's season opener affected by a jammed pinkie finger on his throwing hand.
Also detracting from the quarterback's focus since last season was his inability to come to terms with the Bucs on a contract extension during the off-season and the team's rumoured interest in acquiring Brett Favre during the first week of training camp.
"I don't know if coach just believes that because of things that have stockpiled it seems to have taken away from the edge I normally have on the field or what," Garcia said. "But if that's what he believes, then I need to do my best to get that back and prove to him that it's there."
Gruden has maintained that despite the benching, his relationship with Garcia is fine.
"He knows exactly where I'm coming from," the coach said after practice. "Jeff will not start ... I expect him to be active, and hopefully, he can get back here soon and play with the style that we all know and need around here."