Sunday, December 10, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs fans will relive days of Sapp

TAMPA

Warren Sapp should skip through the Dolphins' stretching line Monday night. One last time, he should kick the pylon out of the northeast corner of the end zone. He should flip his helmet from his toe into his hands and place it on his head. Arms by his side, he should prance and dance and rev Raymond James Stadium into delirium.

For good measure, the former defensive tackle should plant another quarterback or two.

Images of Sapp during his nine seasons in Tampa Bay will flash on the Jumbotron. For a few minutes, fans will remember the dominant defense, the division titles, the Super Bowl XXXVII championship.

During a halftime ceremony, Sapp will receive his ring from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, completing his enshrinement that commenced with a ceremony in Canton, Ohio, in August.

Then the Bucs will unveil his name and retired No. 99 on the east side of RJS, joining Lee Roy Selmon, John McKay, Jimmie Giles and Paul Gruber in the Ring of Honor.

"Bryan (Glazer) just told me I get three minutes (to speak)," Sapp, 40, said Wednesday of the Bucs' co-chairman. "Then I realized we've got a football game to play. People don't come to the football game for halftime. That's okay. I've never been at halftime before."

Sapp was never 0-8 before, either. He was 0-5 and 1-8 in 1996, the first season under coach Tony Dungy. The Bucs won five of their last seven games and didn't look back until the end of the next decade.

In his job as an NFL Network analyst, Sapp has been critical of the Bucs under coach Greg Schiano.

"It's black and white," Sapp said. "At the end of the day, they don't ask you, 'Oh, how did the game go? What were you on third down?' They ask you, 'Did you win or did you not?' And it's that black and white.

"Just like I was sitting there talking to (Schiano) at lunch: This isn't personal. These are just the facts."

Sapp's criticisms include Tampa Bay's use of cornerback Darrelle Revis and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.

"Darrelle Revis is a lock-down corner. Gerald McCoy needs to be swapped from side to side and find a one-on-one for him the same way they did for me," Sapp said. "These aren't facts that are in dispute. That's why I don't think I'm having a problem coming back here and seeing my guys or walking in this place.

"This is personal for me. I love this place with everything I know and love. I want to see it excel. I can live on through this place if they're playing good football. I don't want it that way, but I'm not going to look at it and turn a blind eye. I've always looked at it and called a spade a spade, and that's what I will do."

As I wrote in August, Sapp can still be self-centered, crude and cruel. The brashness and bravado that served him well as a player isn't always as useful once there are no more games to play.

But this night is not about debating his character or other aspects of his life.

On Monday night, Sapp is being honored for his feats on the field. He was an entertainer, and he saw RJS as his stage.

"The boys are calling and telling me, 'We'll be there,' " Sapp said. "That's going to be the most fun part, sitting around on that Sunday afternoon watching football and telling lines. That's the best. Simeon (Rice) is coming. Somebody gave him coordinates from Mars, so we're good. We got the boys."

You can peel back the curtain to the NFL after Monday night. Be careful because it's a little like sausage. You might not want to see how it's made. You can talk about bullies and concussions and coaching burnout for the rest of the year. You can hold up your Fire Schiano signs and mock MRSA.

SAPP 99 is going to hang around for awhile.

"I don't care where it goes," he said, "just so long as it sits up there for awhile."

Don't like it? As he once told Packers coach Mike Sherman, "If you're so tough, put a jersey on."

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