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League wrestles with sticky issue

It's time to return to the scene of the grime.

For Brad Culpepper, that means answering more questions until everyone gets the scoop on the goop the Indianapolis Colts claim the Bucs defensive tackle had on his jersey Sunday.

A spokesman said Monday the league is investigating accusations by the Colts that Culpepper had an illegal substance _ which they believe to be silicone _ on his jersey during the Bucs' 31-28 win.

According to the Colts, the slippery goo was responsible for a botched shotgun snap by center Jay Leeuwenburg in the first quarter.

Leeuwenburg said he lost his grip on the ball because grime from Culpepper's jersey had gotten on his hands. The ball was recovered by defensive end Regan Upshaw.

Culpepper has denied the allegations consistently, saying Monday he was checked three times by an official during the game and never was asked to change jerseys.

"I know when something goes wrong, some people tend to want to blame something else and not themselves," Culpepper said Monday. "When you're 0-9, you don't want to accept the blame or whatever, so you look for other things.

"I don't know, it's what their coach says. It's not proven. It's not something the referee has said. A coach can say anything. I've seen the quotes, and it seems like they're blaming the entire game on that. It's kind of strange. You play 60 minutes."

It will be at least Wednesday before the NFL concludes its investigation, Greg Aiello, the league's director of communications, said.

"I don't have all the facts yet. We are aware of all the reports. We read (coach Lindy Infante's) accounts in the newspapers, and we're in the process of looking into it," Aiello said.

A six-year veteran, Leeuwenburg said Sunday one official agreed Culpepper's jersey was doctored.

"The official said, "You're right, he's got something on his jersey,' " Leeuwenburg said. "But does it take away the fumble? No. (Doctoring jerseys) used to be real common, but less guys are doing it. I'm experienced enough. I should've said I can't snap the ball."

Culpepper gives another version of the incident.

"(An official) came over there and said, "Is there anything on your jersey?' And I said, "No, there might be sweat,' " he said. "So he felt, and he goes, "If there is, wipe it off and check with me before you play.' I went back in there and said, "Check me.' I went in, went straight to him, he felt me, and he goes, "Okay, you're good to play.'

"We ran a play, and Leeuwenburg says, "He's still got it! He's still got it!' The guy came over and felt me again. The same guy. This is the third time, and he says, "Listen, quit your crying, the guy is fine.' "

Culpepper also offered this reasoning for why Leeuwenburg might have been contriving a reason for the poor snap.

"If he had stuff on his hands, why does he not stop the ball? If he has it on his hands, he's the dolt that doesn't wipe his hands off before he snapped it. It was ridiculous. They were just crying over nothing."

Culpepper is not the first player to be accused of putting a slippery substance on his jersey, which might make a player harder to block and tackle.

"When we've missed tackles on Barry Sanders, I've had guys in the past say Barry Sanders has silicone on his jersey," coach Tony Dungy said. "That's easy to say. The officials checked his and felt he was fine.

"I'm sure it gets frustrating when you lose the games (Indianapolis has)lost. I might have the same type of response. I think that was the third play of the game, though, and there were a lot of chances to win the game after that. I thought the Colts played very well and maybe deserved to win the game, but they didn't."