Sapp’s opening statement to the media:
“I came here to do a job – I came here to do a little NFL Network camp lookout on Raheem and the boys. Other than that, I came to see (his former defensive line coach) Keith [Millard] the D-line. You know this! I came to see if the boys were hunting and they are doing a good job up there. We were sitting up there watching tape. The best thing Gerald [McCoy] did was come in this year talking about being his own player. That’s the only way he’s ever going to make steps and take off like he needs to and be himself and be what he needs to be. He couldn’t be Tommie [Harris] at Oklahoma. I can’t even be Warren Sapp anymore. I’m not 27. That’s crazy. Don’t even worry about [being me]. Go ahead and do whatever you can get done and just take steps. After his rookie year, I’m sure he understands what it is now to go in and prepare week in and week out. Other than that, the kid – [defensive end Adrian] Clayborn – Donald Penn came up to me and said, ‘Man, I’ve never worked this hard!’ I said, ‘It’s about time your fat, lazy rump gets some work done around here!’ He said, ‘You know how it is. I didn’t have anybody.’ I told him, ‘I know and right now, big boy, you’ve got yourself something.’ He said, ‘I’ve got to go at it. We’re going at it every day.’ I like that the kid is coming in, and I looked at the tape of some of the other ones and they’ve got a combination right now with some loose bodies and big hogs. Keith loves it all and the other guy (defensive line coach Grady Stretz) is coaching the run technique. I was at home. It was quiet in there and somebody asked the question, ‘Where is the game at?’ And one guy raised his hand. I yelled out, ‘There’s only one guy in this room that knows where the center is going in the protection?’ Then they all started yelling and got into it.”
You only went to the defensive line room?
“I had to, man! Come on! Put me somewhere where I can go with the boys. That’s just what it is for me.”Does it do your heart good to see the Bucs defensive line come together?
“Without a doubt. That’s what pulled this carriage all those years. Whether it was Chuck [Darby], Buck [Gurley], me, [Greg] Spires, or way back when it was Regan [Upshaw], Chidi [Ahanotu], me and Marcus [Jones] – all of us – it was a unit. That was the only way we were going to go about getting better was as a unit. The brothers – the brotherhood of men. I told them about it today. They have a sign up on the wall that says the three most dangerous words: ‘I got it.’ Those are the worst three words. They are the worst three words that can come out of your mouth as a football player – ‘I got it.’ They love working with each other. You can see it. It’s genuine. Whenever you have a unit like that you’ll be something to be reckoned with.”With all of the great defensive backs in the league, does it still always start up front on defense?
“I always tell people this: a defense is like a chain and you are only as strong as your weakest link. If you can identify that weak link and make him stronger, that makes your unit stronger. Whatever that is and however they are going to get it done – they are going to know. ‘I know your strength, you know my weaknesses.’ We’re all going to get this together and pull together. If we are all rowing in the right direction the ship will go.”Do you like the way Mark Dominik and Raheem Morris have started to build this team?
“You know what? I was looking at it from afar and I was like, ‘They are $46 million or $59 million under the cap and this is the best receiving corps in the history of this game that has been out on the street and they said, ‘Nah, we’re the young Bucs. We’re going to go with our guys.' I don’t know about that. Then I remember me, Derrick [Brooks], [John] Lynch, Ronde [Barber] and Dwight Smith – all of the guys that we drafted and were growing together. Then I was thinking … that is the way we did it. We got Simeon [Rice] out of the free agent market and got him in here, but we didn’t add a bunch of different pieces. It was homegrown Bucs that we grew up with. I like their philosophy. It’s worked before. Ten wins isn’t a bad way to start. Having 74 guys of the 90 [on the roster] in this place 25 and under, it makes me feel ancient.”They built the offense first, though.
“They solidified their front with the way their quarterback is protected. You have Arrelious [Benn] outside. You have Mike Williams, you have [LeGarrette] Blount in the backfield. You have a good little combination and K2 (Kellen Winslow) there. They have a great combination of guys that they are building together. We build together. We grow together. We grow old together. I didn’t think about it until Raheem told me, ‘How many outsiders did you have in your defense?’ Whoa! Relax, big guy! No need to attack me! It was all homegrown. It was us. We came in and did what we did. I read Mark Dominik’s piece where he said, ‘I didn’t want a guy coming in here and we hand him his stuff and he said, ‘In Indianapolis they gave me this and in Baltimore they gave me this.’ It just rang true to me. We had one guy that came down here and we ran the pursuit drill – Rufus Porter. He didn’t make it through one drill. That’s what I’m saying. It was something that he was so unused to he just left. They drove him in. He was gone. Are you kidding me? He couldn’t do our pursuit drill? I understand what they are saying because we – they – have a certain way they are doing it here. They want to draft their guys. They want to build them together and they want to grow them together. I like that.”Do you see more people believing in Morris now than they did initially in 2009?
“You are going to have your critics and your skeptics because he went from 3-13 to the largest turnaround in franchise history. Being the youngest coach and then having the youngest team – he’s got this new word, ‘Youngry.’ I kind of like it. He’s going Jesse Jackson on me! He’s inventing words around here! I said, ‘Boy, we might have given you a little too much confidence around here.’ But it is what it is. He understands what he wants to do with his young team and he’s applying it on a day-in, and day-out basis. The one thing I know about football, if you buy in – it will work. That’s what Bill Belichick does. He’ll drink the Kool-Aid. They do it all the time. They do it to everybody. I like the philosophy of ‘I don’t want any of my critics to believe in me. I just need my ballclub to.’ I know he has the pulse of these kids. They are playing. You can just watch them in walk-thrus – [Dezmon] Briscoe, and Arrelious and Mike Williams trying to pick the quarterback off. That’s what we would try to do! They would score, cut up and act crazy – these kids are so ready to chomp at the bit. They don’t know nothing but – ‘Let’s do what coach says. He told us 10 wins and we go get 10 wins.’ It’s called a Jedi mind-trick. If I can fool you, you’ll believe me!”When people talk about the Bucs now they talk about offense. Do you like that?
“It’s beautiful! I like scoring points! I wish I had more points! I might have had more than one championship! The one thing this team has that I never had – a franchise quarterback. I had Rich Gannon for three games until Brooks hit him in the head and he was gone! I still blame Brooks for that. They have a franchise quarterback and I see [Josh Freeman] as an MVP candidate this year because he’s fire retardant. The one thing I’ve done in this league is I’ve chased quarterbacks and I’ve lived quarterbacks. This young man – there is something about him. I remember when they drafted him. I called Raheem and I said, ‘Would you put your stamp on him?’ ‘I’ll stamp him, Sapp.’ That’s what he said. I said, ‘Do you want to play him?’ He said, ‘I hope not!’ It was just one of those deals. Watching this kid grow and watching the young men grow around him – he commands them. It’s almost like that [Michael] Vick thing where people want to go play with him. This kid has that kind of quality around him, too.”As an analyst, what are the Bucs’ strengths and weaknesses in their pursuit of a championship?
“Not so much as an analyst, but as a person who played the game – I look in the inside. [Brian] Price and McCoy have to show up. They have to be stage-setters. They have to be so strong through the middle because it’s going to be them and a rookie ‘backer (Mason Foster). The one thing that I’ve always known about this defense – the middle ‘backer has to be cerebral, but he has to be the calming force. I would turn back and if I saw [Shelton] Quarles or I saw Nate [Webster] – or whoever was the middle linebacker – he has his arm out and says, ‘This is where we are going and this is what we are playing.’ Even if you are dead-*censored* wrong, that’s where we are going and that’s what we are playing. It gives you a calm now that I can put my feet in the ground, I know what gap I have, and I know what my responsibilities are and that’s going to be the biggest thing. In the middle of this defense between those two tackles and that linebacker they will be able to lock this thing down.”Is it a tall order to start a rookie middle linebacker?
“He doesn’t have to do anything but his job. That’s the whole beauty of defense when you are talking about 11 guys. You can have Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Brent Jones – whoever you want on offense. Just give me 11 guys on defense that say, ‘Not today.’ If we are where we are supposed to be and do what we need to do, the greatest offense in the world will go away. I’ve done it. I’ve choked out the Greatest Show On Turf (the 1999 St. Louis Rams). I’ve done it. I understand what that is. Those two kids in the middle (McCoy and Price) getting themselves back healthy and ready to go, and him being a calming force and understanding what they are asking him to do in identifying the shifts and the movement, call that thing and get them lined up. They can play.”What are your impressions of LeGarrette Blount?
“You ever did him like this? [pushing his fingers in a reporter’s chest]. He’s just thick. Just thick. It just doesn’t make any sense they made a man like that. Man, running backs shouldn’t be looking like that. That’s just not right. The kid loves the game; he has a hunger for it. You get that from the other young guys. There is a rookie leading running backs. We grow together. A young quarterback who is younger than most the other dudes. I’m like are you kidding me? I don’t get it but I love what they have going.”What makes Ronde Barber so special?
“Still here, not going anywhere. But you know what? I believe you need some old, ornery men on your ball club. Some old, ornery, stuck in their ways, grumpy old men who say this is how we do it or get from around us. And Ronde is their guy. He has always been the rock. He has always been a nut. In the locker room throwing his helmet at you. He is always fun to be around. Ronde is great.”Are you surprised Barber is still playing and at a quality level?
No, because it was always his thing. Stabbing, faking in and out, being able to dissect things so good. Him and Derrick Brooks were the two best guys I have seen, seeing something on tape and being able to take it to the football field. React to that play, and make that play every time. And Ronde has always had that ability. But he worked his butt off. I remember day one. He worked his butt off. He understood what the defense was, and ways to gamble.”What do you miss most about being in the NFL as a player?
“The locker room. Just like eating with the guys today. The guys and the back and forth. There is nothing like your locker room guys. They didn’t have it this year, that offseason. That [offseason work] where you work out and run and go get lunch. That’s where you pour that concrete for that foundation where you are going to build for 16 weeks. But these kids have been on top of each other. Raheem has to kick them out of the building, and tell them it is illegal. I mean that is just how much they want to come here and get going. You can’t make anyone love their job.”Do you think the new rules put in place to protect offensive players will have an impact on the game?
“I’m really worried about the fundamentals of tackling. The last couple years not a lot of people had technique. They were just going at people’s heads, launching at peoples heads looking for a highlight to go on Hits of the Week. Now you take away the ability to go after someone’s head. And now you have to go back to your fundamentals. When is the last time someone taught tackling? I was in the NFL for 13 years and didn’t tackle a soul in practice one time. Mike Alstott would come through there and it would be like, ‘look out, keep on running Mike.’ That’s just what you did. You didn’t put yourself in harm’s way. I’m looking for the fundamentals of the game to come back now. Because that’s what will have to come back to actually tackle now. You’ll see people diving at people’s waist and not wrapping up and they will be bouncing off. There is going to be more YAC [yards after contact] than we have ever seen. I just don’t see the fundamentals on the defensive side.”What are the differences between when you played and today’s training camps?
“Two-a-days push you to the point you didn’t know you could go. Some of those days out there, I look at Brooks and say ‘we got to go, we have got to lead them.’ Because if we don’t go they will flat-foot drop and we will have a [expletive] practice. So we had to go. You have to push yourself. Some days it would be Simeon [Rice]. I’d ask him to get up front and go. You would have to call on each other. That gets you prepared for December and January when it’s cold and nasty and everyone knows your play. That’s what it prepares you for, those long grueling days in the sun. Right now [for these guys in comparison] it is Club Med.”How do you feel about Aqib Talib and his legal situation?
“What we are hearing is everything isn’t like it got reported. Normally that is how it goes. I’ll reserve judgment right now. I know the kid is a good man. If he wasn’t I know this organization wouldn’t have him. I don’t think Raheem Morris or Mark Dominik would put themselves in a position to be tarnished or trashed because they are building something special. I think Aqib is one of those kids that is going to help them build something special. It is just one of those situations where, let's let it get out, and come out in the wash and see what it is. But I’m going to put my chips on Talib in this one.”How do you feel new defensive line coach Keith Millard will impact the Buccaneers’ pass rush?
“Hell on fire going one hundred miles an hour. He coaches it like he lives. Hard and fast. You talk about the original three-technique. When I got him in Oakland we were coming out of that 3-4 mess, and then Keith got there. So we go about this thing, we just bought into it. Because he wanted the quarterback on the ground. I wanted to get back to rushing, [Derrick] Burgess wanted to get back to rushing. And that’s what I see in that room. Got a bunch of young, hungry kids that don’t want anything but knowledge and the ability to play well. And Keith is going to push them to it. I know that for a fact. I had it. [Doing an impression of Millard] We are going to get ten sacks at 34 years old! I said, ‘Are you kidding me.’ Lets go then. His love for rushing, the game, and the kids, and the knowledge. It’s just ongoing. And when I heard the Bucs didn’t have a defensive line coach and they had called the UCF guy, I called up Dominik and said I got someone for you to look at, Keith Millard. He said, ‘What?’ I said just bring him in for an interview and if you aren’t blown away call me back and tell me to never call you back and I’ll delete your number. He called me back and said, ‘My God.’ I said I told you. He is the original three-technique [defensive tackle]. A killer.”What about teams, like the Eagles and Patriots, bringing in big name veterans?
“In 2000 when we brought Keyshawn [Johnson] in, that was supposed to be our 17 points, we were supposed to win a championship and host a Super Bowl right here in Tampa right? That didn’t work out. It didn’t work out like that. You have to mix some things. It took [Joe] Jurevicius, Keenan [McCardell] and some other pieces that were added together to do what we needed to do. I mean it just took a collection of talent. I remember the Cowboys had what, 13 Pro Bowlers on their team, and still didn’t win anything. Talent does not win games in this league. You got to put together a team that believes in what you’re doing. Play in and play out. Your philosophy in the weight room, locker room, travel whatever it is. It takes so much to put yourself in that position. It is not just sign this guy and sign that guy, and we are going to go out and play.”Does it pain you the Bucs have not had a double digit sacker since Simeon Rice in 2005?
“Well you look at Stylez G. [White] did the best he could. He was the best rusher we had. What was it? Nineteen sacks (over the last four years) he had or something like that? Rushing the passer is the hardest thing in this league to do, because everything has to come together. The coverage, your move, not a three-step drop, a five-step drop, so many combinations have to come home for you. They are young. When I was young I didn’t have many sacks. I remember my rookie year being grabbed and looking back at the referee and saying ‘He’s holding me.’ He’s like, ‘Grow up.’ You go through those growing pains, so Gerald’s ability for those games that he played, he know’s what is now. Now when I’m talking to him about the rush he’s getting it. He’s not just trying to mimic what I’m telling him. He’s understanding what I’m saying about the crow hop off the back. Shoving a guard in the A gap and let him occupy the A gap and the back will take him out of your hands. He understands that now. Before he was looking at me all wide-eyed and bushy-tailed and he thought he could take it on the field and do it, and I’m like ‘No you’re not, son.’ It takes years of formulating your own feel and then it takes over. When you play in this league and then you come back, you take little steps forward or you fall off. He’s going to take big steps. Now he understands it. He knows exactly what he’s getting into it. Rod [Marinelli] used to have a rule: only you can block you. Either with a bad plan, poor preparation, or bad technique, that’s the thing you want to transfer over and he’s going to do it.”Do you ever let yourself dream of the day you might be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
“If I’m that lucky to get into that position, I’m going to cry like a baby. You don’t [think about it] because look at the list. My class in '13 will be: Larry Allen, Jonathan Ogden, [Junior] Seau, Michael Strahan and me. Dungy is in there too? Give me a break. If you look at the list and you look at there is 2,000-catch receivers in Cris Carter and Tim Brown. There is a five-time world champion in Charles Haley. The greatest center that possibly played game except for the indestructible Jim Otto in Dermontti Dawson. He could reach the nine technique. And you add Will Shields with his 12 Pro Bowls. Come on! Look at the list!”
Why are the Bucs a playoff team?
“Why are they a playoff team? Because of the quarterback and the defense. This defense with Raheem, he understands that [if you] make them earn it, nine times out of 10 an offense will mess it up because everybody has to be on the same page.”
You get excited talking about the Bucs?
“When you build a team that had 11-straight double-digit-loss seasons into a champion, it is very satisfying.– by Mark Cook, Scott Reynolds and Charlie Campbell
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