DT Warren Sapp is fired up about the chance to match up against Dallas G Larry Allen
If Warren Sapp were a cyclist, he'd be about to climb the steepest hill on the course. If he were a cowboy, he'd be saddling up the meanest bronco in the chute. If he were a
Okay, you get the picture, so to speak. It's hard to imagine the 300-pound Sapp in any of those situations, but he is about to face his own greatest challenge of the season this Sunday when the Dallas Cowboys come to town.
You may have read the opinion of Tampa Bay's own advance scout in this area just a few days ago, as he referred to Dallas guard Larry Allen as the best offensive lineman in the league, regardless of position. Whether or not that's a slight to such outstanding tackles as Tony Boselli and Orlando Pace, it is generally accepted that Allen is the most effective player at his position.
That is certainly Sapp's opinion.
"It's the best guard in the game and I'm supposed to be the best tackle, so I'm going to see if I'm the man I think I am," said Sapp, offering up a self-challenge of sorts.
To Sapp, it's an elemental battle that can have only one winner: "Yeah! Two men enter, one man leaves," he said. "That's the way they always taught me the game at Miami, and that's the way I've approached it."
Sapp has been looking forward to this opportunity for quite some time now.
"It's the best against the best," he said. "If you can't get up for this ballgame, then you're dead. For a long time, I've always said, 'Darn, Dallas ain't on the schedule, Dallas ain't on the schedule.' Brooks kind of feels the same way about Emmitt – that's a Pensacola thing for them."
Still, as juiced as he is for the battle, Sapp's not losing sight of the more important team goal. "It's the Cowboys, but it's just another step in where we need to go," he said. "It just happens to be the Cowboys in the way, and we have to take them down."
As promised, we will continue to update you on the possibilities of the Tampa Bay's 2001 schedule, as shifts in the various division standings send Buc travel organizers back to the drawing board.
Again, the schedules for the Bucs and all 31 NFL teams are devised using a formula that is set before the season and is based on where each team finishes in it's division. Each team in the NFC plays its own division mates twice, of course, plus two games each against NFC East and NFC West opponents and four games against teams in whatever AFC division it is their turn to play.
The Bucs and the rest of the NFC Central will be matched up against the AFC Central next year. Right now, Tampa Bay stands in third place in its division which, according to the formula, would have them traveling to the first and fourth-place teams in the AFC Central and playing host to the second and sixth-place squads.
Currently, that would mean trips to Tennessee and Jacksonville and home games against Baltimore and Cincinnati. Tampa Bay has yet to play at Tennessee and has never faced the Baltimore Ravens.
The formula also spits out these four contests in the NFC: at Carolina and Philadelphia and at home against Washington and Atlanta.
While the formula won't change, the results easily could if the Bucs manage to pass Detroit and move into second place in the NFC Central, or if other division standings shuffle. Stay tuned for developments.
K Martin Gramatica has made 14 consecutive field goals since his last miss at Minnesota on October 9 (from 53 yards out). The team record is 16, set by Michael Husted in 1995 and '96, which means Gramatica has an excellent chance to break that mark.
That would only add to the remarkable number of team records Gramatica has taken over or is challenging in just his second year on the job. He is already just six points from joining the top five on the team's all-time scoring chart, and his 106 points last year was a franchise record.
Gramatica also nailed a Buccaneer-record 27 field goals in his rookie season and tied the record for most field goals in a game (four). This season, he has hit five field goals of 50 or more yards (in just seven tries), which is also a single-season Buc standard. His 55-yarder against Detroit tied for the second-longest in team history.
In 2000, Gramatica is on pace for 124 points on approximately 27 field goals and 44 extra points. All of those marks would break or tie team records. His 47 field goals in 56 career attempts are worthy of his nickname, 'Automatica'…that 83.9% success rate is the best by any kicker in team history.
So that's the present, and it looks good. But let's rewind a bit to April of 1999, when the Buccaneers' selected Gramatica in the third round of the draft. As is always the case when kickers are drafted in the early rounds, sometimes when they're drafted at all, the Bucs were questioned about the wisdom of using a pick that high for that position.
Nobody questions that decision any longer, of course, but the Bucs' decision is looking better and better by the week. A recent rundown at One Buc Place of the third round of the 1999 draft revealed that Gramatica might actually be the best pick of that entire round.
Of the 34 players selected in that round, only a handful are filling significant roles towards the end of their sophomore season, including CB Daylon McCutcheon, WR Marty Booker, RB Shawn Bryson, CB Mike McKenzie, DL Joey Porter and DL Cletidus Hunt.
McCutcheon starts for Cleveland and has 49 tackles, three sacks and one interception. Booker is a third receiver for the Bears and has 32 receptions for 299 yards and one touchdown. Bryson shares running back duties in Buffalo and has a team-leading 370 rushing yards. McKenzie starts at cornerback for the Packers and is a good, young player, though he has just 13 tackles and one pick this year. Porter has been moved to linebacker for Pittsburgh; he starts outside on the right end and has 49 tackles and nine sacks. Hunt has moved into the Packers' starting lineup due to injuries and has 18 tackles and five sacks.
Just from those early returns it would seem as if the top selections from the third round of 1999 are Gramatica and Porter – take your pick. The Bucs chose Gramatica, and are certainly happy they did.