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Hape vigilant about signature

Consider this a warning: If you happen to get something autographed by Bucs tight end Patrick Hape, don't try to post it on an online auction site like eBay.com.

You might get a few bucks, yes, but you also might get an e-mail from a 262-pound football player wondering what you're up to.

Hape, now in his fourth year with the team, often searches for his football cards on eBay, and in the process, he's been disappointed to find things he has autographed for fans turning up in auctions.

"I've actually written e-mails to people, saying, "Hey, where'd you get that?' " Hape said after Thursday's practice. "I've done that several times."

Hape isn't the kind of high-profile player whose autograph will draw big-dollar bids online _ if you check eBay now, his name doesn't pull anything up _ but for him, it's the principle involved.

He's tried to figure out ways around the business side of autographs, personalizing the signatures so that they only are worth something if you can find a bidder who has your name. He's even seen people sneak around that, erasing the personal part of the signature and keeping his name and No. 82.

To counter this, Hape isn't signing fewer items. He's just getting messier.

"I'll write "To So-and-So' and then write my name right there in with it, and that way they can't erase who I wrote it to," he said, proud of his continuing effort to separate the entrepreneurs from the genuine fans.

As a reserve tight end who has set a career high with six receptions this season and has 100 receiving yards in four years, Hape understands that there aren't many people looking for his stuff online.

There's him and his brother, Garrick, who lives in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where Hape attended college. Garrick also keeps an eye out for Hape memorabilia, and on one occasion, the brothers found themselves inadvertently bidding against each other for the same card. Patrick pulled back, and Garrick won the auction.

Hape has found the Internet handy for more than just policing his own autograph hunters. He's bought hunting clothes online, and as an aspiring guitar player, he's often at harmonycentral.com, a music site where he can download lyrics and chord progressions for country music songs. He now owns three guitars, including an electric Fender Stratocaster his wife bought him for Christmas.

"I'm not any good at the guitar right now, but I'll hang out with a group of people and sing some country while they play," he said.

TID-BYTES: NFL.com is holding online balloting for the NFL defensive MVP, but Tampa Bay's Warren Sapp was third in the voting Thursday with 20 percent, well behind Baltimore's Ray Lewis and New Orleans' La'Roi Glover. For consolation, a poll at Buccaneers.com has Sapp as the fans' choice for team MVP, garnering 26 percent of the vote. Derrick Brooks (20 percent) and John Lynch (16 percent) were next. An autographed, game-used jersey worn by Wade Boggs in 1999 was bidding at $1,000 at eBay.com on Thursday. Auction ends on Tuesday afternoon. CNNSI.com has a heartwarming feature this week on Warrick Dunn's charitable Christmas contributions of homes to 22 single mothers in the past four years.

_ If you have a question or comment about the Internet or a site to suggest, send an e-mail to staff writer Greg Auman at aumanac1aol.com.

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