TAMPA — Warren Sapp makes a compelling argument that he belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Eight Pro Bowls, including seven straight, a defensive player of the year award and a Super Bowl title.
"If Warren Sapp doesn't go into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, you'd better check the IQ of the voters," coach Jon Gruden said at Sapp's retirement party. "No disrespect to anyone, but he's the favorite guy I ever coached."
No disrespect to Gruden or Sapp, but No. 99 might not make it to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.
There are a lot of reasons for that. Start with the fact that only five players are elected each year. Unless Brett Favre returns to play for the Packers, the class of 2013 nominees will include Sapp, Favre, Michael Strahan, Jonathan Ogden, Steve McNair, Larry Allen and possibly Junior Seau.
It never made sense why players with Hall of Fame credentials have to wait several years to receive their due. Sapp has 96.5 sacks — somewhat unheard of for a defensive tackle — and he won't put another QB on the ground the rest of his life.
Even so, there will be some resistance to putting Sapp in Canton on the first ballot. One Hall of Fame voter told me he would have a tough time putting Sapp in the Hall ahead of Vikings defensive tackle John Randle, who finished his career with 137.5 sacks — the most by a defensive tackle in NFL history. He also was voted to seven Pro Bowls.
Sapp was simply one of the most colorful and productive players in league history. And you can say this, he went out on his own terms.
"I've never been cut, traded or released," Sapp said. "I was drafted, paid a contract, signed another deal, played out that entire contract, became an unrestricted free agent, found another team and played under that contract. I could look the owner in the eye and say the services asked for, services rendered."
INVITING TROUBLE: The Bucs won the NFC South for the third time in six years last season. The story lines of training camp should be about their imposing offensive line, the maturation of Gaines Adams, continuity at quarterback with the return of Jeff Garcia, the three-headed running back rotation of Earnest Graham, Warrick Dunn and Michael Bennett, just to name a few.
Unfortunately, the Bucs keep making headlines this offseason for all the wrong reasons.
Garcia's public dissatisfaction with a lowball offer on a contract extension and forfeiting $1-million in playing incentives; Chris Simms, hanging in limbo, saying he can never play for Gruden again; the PR nightmare that came with the re-signing of Jerramy Stevens.
And last week there were reports that defensive back Aqib Talib and running back Cory Boyd got into a fight at the NFL Rookie Symposium.
The altercation reportedly took place during a session on finances. The symposium is attended by more than 250 rookies for the purposes of teaching them life skills and helping them adjust to life as a pro football player.
It might not be as newsworthy except for where the incident took place and that both rookies have had trouble in the past. Talib, the first-round pick, tested positive for marijuana three times at Kansas. Boyd, a seventh-round pick, was suspended a year at South Carolina for disciplinary reasons.
Talib is a terrific talent, but this is a dumb way for him to start his career. As for Boyd, he missed the entire offseason workout program and minicamp with a knee injury.
You have to wonder if some of these headaches are avoidable.