Could third-year player Anthony McFarland outrun fellow DT Warren Sapp in a 40-yard dash?
Brian Kelly stood on the goal line, his back to the opposite end zone. The sprinters took their marks.
The 300-pound sprinters, that is.
As much as that may sound like an oxymoron, it isn't really. The sprinters on this Wednesday afternoon were Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackles Warren Sapp and Anthony McFarland, two of the fastest 300-pound men one is likely to come across.
Apparently, a running conversation during the Buccaneers recent voluntary practices had turned into a challenge, a 'pay-per-view event,' as Head Coach Tony Dungy called it. As the team huddled at 11:30 a.m. for the end of the team portion of practice, Dungy teasingly prodded the challengers into action. Neither hesitated.
So it was that Warren Sapp, 1999 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and Anthony McFarland, one of the Bucs' most quietly effective players in 2000, were down in three-point stances, waiting for Kelly to signal the start.
And the winner was…
Well, let's think about this. Sapp, a freakily good athlete at his size, has lost somewhere around 30 pounds this offseason to become an even more disruptive pass-rushing force. McFarland, on the other hand, is a Sapp clone with about four fewer years off the treads of his tires.
Okay, so back to the race. At the gun, McFarland got the quicker jump and had an early one-step lead on Sapp. The two runners…
Hey, speaking of Sapp's weight loss, what is it with these Buccaneer players this spring? Sapp, Mike Alstott, Ryan Leaf, David Gibson … for some reason, thin is in this offseason at One Buccaneer Place, as a number of players are looking to trim up and increase their quickness for what they consider a crucial season. Alstott, for instance, shrugged off his extra efforts on Monday, saying, 'This is the season.'
Head Coach Tony Dungy ordered no such transformations, but is impressed with the extra effort being put in.
"Well, we want to approach every season like it's the one," he said. "But, yes, I think our guys are working hard to be ready for camp this season. A lot of guys are about eight to 10 pounds lighter now than they were at this point last season."
Sapp may be the most noticeable of that group, but … oh, yes, Warren Sapp! The race! Where were we?
McFarland got the quicker start, but Sapp closed the gap and was pulling even when the two hit the 25-yard mark. Would veteran experience outdo young legs?
"If I were a betting man, my money would have been on Warren," said Dungy. "But they say this is a young man's game. In a 20-yard dash, I'd definitely go with Sapp, but it would probably be pretty even over 40 yards."
That makes us wonder – how would these two fare against an NFL running back like Alstott, who is no small man, either. Of course, he is a little trimmer these days.
"It's a different kind of mindset," said Alstott of his motivation to get in even better shape than he was last year. "I'm really focused this year. Not that I wasn't focused last year, but the whole season was such a disappointment. That focused me even more."
Focus. That's something we're lacking here, isn't it? Back to the race.
So we've got Sapp inching up on McFarland as the two pass the halfway point. Just when it seemed as if Sapp's momentum would carry him ahead down the stretch, McFarland pulled away again, lengthening his lead back to at least a step.
Sapp remained right on his heels, but McFarland held that edge over the finish line, surprising a few observers. Sapp is one of those natural athletes that easily excels at side pursuits like softball and basketball. Perhaps McFarland is in the same mold.
What we really need to figure that out is a decathlon. Next week, Sapp and McFarland pole vault!