By Tom Krasniqi (Twitter: @TKras)
You couldn’t miss him. Big ‘ol #99 walked into One Buc Place early this morning to do some live reporting for his employer, the NFL Network. He worked the camera the way he worked opposing NFL quarterbacks— with passion, ferocity and holding nothing back. If you want to know what’s on Warren Sapp’s mind, just ask him.
Sapp visited with the Bucs during the first day of training camp on Thursday. After fulfilling his TV obligations, the soon to be Hall of Famer met with the media to discuss his long awaited trip to Canton and other topics of interest. He’ll be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on August 3. “I never thought about the Hall of Fame. I never dreamed of the Hall of Fame. I played the game for the love and respect of the people I played with and against”, said Sapp. “If you were picking a team, I always told you how it is—you got a defensive tackle position, I’m taking 99. And twice on Sunday”.
It’s that passion and drive that propelled Sapp to 7 Pro Bowls and the Defensive Player of the Year award in 1999. Not to mention a Super Bowl ring and now a trip to Canton to be immortalized among the all-time football greats. Sapp says he couldn’t have accomplished it without the help of former Bucs coach Tony Dungy. “It was the first time in my life I ever had a black man lead me in anything”, proclaimed Sapp. “Me and [Derrick] Brooks looked at each other like ‘yeah’….we have a figure in front of us that everybody tells us is a godsend. There’s no way we won’t play football for this man”.
Sapp was the ringleader who helped transform the Buccaneers from a laughingstock to a contender back in the mid to late 1990’s. And that’s something he’s proud of. “I tell people all the time Anthony Munoz and Dexter Manley wore this uniform. ‘They did??’ Yeah, they just didn’t very play well in it (laughs)…..Or very long in it so that’s just one of those things. We took it from where careers came to die to a destination”, Sapp said.
And now Sapp will get his special day on August 10th in Canton. Not bad for a guy who came up from tiny Plymouth, Florida.
Among the other topics Sapp addressed on Thursday with the media:
- Sapp was asked where Vincent Jackson stacked up against the other receivers in the NFL: “Not in the top 5”.
- On the need for the current Bucs to get a pass rush: “I want to see this [defensive] front come [step up]. I’m issuing a challenge to Da’Quan Bowers. Last time I checked, if you wore pewter and red, you hunted the quarterback here”.
- On any possible concern regarding Gerald McCoy’s weight loss: “Looks can be deceiving…..trust me, he’s just getting himself in great shape”.
- On this Bucs offense: “They’re an offensive juggernaut. And that’s scary for a person that played Buc ball for as many years as I did. To look at this offense and go ‘oh my God’. And the scariest part of it is the front 5 [offensive line]. Those boys can move and mash you with the best of them”.
- On his classic battles with Brett Favre: “It was just so much fun because he wasn’t backing down, he wasn’t getting off the tracks…he was gonna meet you head up and see ‘whatcha got?’ for 60 minutes. If we had to go to overtime, he was going to battle that too. That’s what you want. You want the best”.
Listen to the entire session below: