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Article Title: The Bigggest Question
Article Date: August 12 2003
By Bryan Hersh

Before the pre-season started I listed several questions that had to be answered in a positive manner in order for the 49ers to have a successful season. While I addressed staying healthy in these questions (something the team is clearly struggling to do), I was remised not to include Jeff Garcia’s health as an entity unto its own. Jeff Garcia had not missed a game since becoming the 49ers starter until of course this pre-season.

While working out at home a week before training camp Garcia herniated a disk in his back. The team is referring to the injury as a ‘slipped disc’ likely to avoid mass hysteria, but the reality of the matter is that they are the same thing. While Garcia’s condition does not appear to be serious enough to send sharp pains down his back and legs, as the condition often can, it is likely more serious than the team is letting on.

While Garcia tells the media, and the team that he will be ok, the truth of the matter is that nobody knows exactly how Garcia’s back will respond to the first hit, or the second, or the third.... Now I am not saying that Garcia will not be able to play this year, because I do not know that. But I am also beginning to wonder how much the team actually knows.

The fact of the matter is Garcia’s back was not healthy enough to sit on a three hour plain trip. Garcia has missed about a week of practice since his back flared up again. The only way his back will truly get better is with rest (or possibly surgery), and there is little chance of Garcia getting any real rest before the season starts.

Jeff’s injury happened at a very unfortunate time. There really was no time to let it get better before two-a-day practises began. Being the fighter that he is, Garcia may be able to pull through the injury, and play through the pain. But if the 49ers don’t take the situation seriously and if Garcia does not take the situation seriously it could mean some very bad things for the quarterback’s future.

All that being said, the offensive line will really have to step up this season. Garcia has been one of the least sacked quarterbacks during his tenure with the 49ers, but he suffers some brutal hits outside of the pocket. The offensive line has to make sure that unless Garcia takes off and scrambles he is not getting hit, even after the play. When Jeff does scramble he will have to look out of bounds instead of for the nearest defender to run over as he usually does.

Further I would be shocked if the 49ers do not keep four quarterbacks this season. Even without Garcia’s injury it was my belief that they would. The team has three really solid prospects to back up Garcia, and should Garcia miss significant time, or worse yet, the entire season, not having to bring in a fresh quarterback half way through the season would be a significant advantage.

The question is then: How will Jeff's Back Hold Up?