DT Warren Sapp is hearing from the national press
Last week, it was Fox and CNNSI, Howie Long and Jerry Klein. This week it's HBO and ESPN, Armen Keteyian and Suzy Kolber. National sports shows are descending on Tampa Bay, bringing serious air time to the Buccaneers' burgeoning list of stars.
Headlining this week's prime-time exposure for the Buccaneers will be an appearance on HBO's popular weekly studio show, "Inside the NFL." Keteyian will interview Sapp about the Bucs' high-flying defense for use on the show starring Nick Buoniconti, Cris Collinsworth, Len Dawson and Jerry Glanville. The show first airs on Thursday evening at 8:00 p.m. EST and is then re-broadcast on Thursday at 11:00 p.m. EST and Friday at 7:00 p.m. EST.
A two-time Pro Bowler, Sapp is one of the most recognizable names on a defense that is truly succeeding as a unit. Tampa Bay is hoping for multiple Pro Bowl invitations this season, including a third trip for Sapp, who is tied for fourth in the NFL with 11.5 sacks. Sapp increased that team-leading total with 1.5 takedowns on Sunday against Detroit, but passed credit on to the entire defense.
"We got a couple of sacks (against Detroit)," said Sapp, "and we were able to keep the pressure on (QB Gus) Frerotte, but it was a total team effort. It's 11 of us out there and we have confidence that one of the guys on the field is going to come up and make a big play."
Sapp has been one of those big-play producers in recent weeks, recording at least one sack in four of the Bucs' last five games and adding three forced fumbles in that span, two of which he recovered himself. That and a six-game winning streak for Tampa Bay has helped propel the team into the national spotlight, but Sapp's efforts are also gaining local attention as he closes in on a beloved franchise figure.
Sapp is now just 1.5 sacks behind the team's single-season sack record, set at 13 in 1977 by Hall of Fame DE Lee Roy Selmon. The first player ever drafted by the Buccaneers, Selmon is also the team's only player in the Hall and is far-and-away the career sack leader with 78.5. Though Sapp remains well behind that mark, he needs just two sacks in three games to surpass one of the longest-standing single-season records in team annals.
The other Buccaneer slated for national air-time is rookie QB Shaun King, who has led Tampa Bay to consecutive victories over Minnesota and Detroit. King will meet with Kolber on Wednesday for a piece to air this week on ESPN and then site down with Jim Rome on Thursday for Rome's syndicated television show, "The Last Word."
Last Monday (12/6), King became just the second rookie quarterback in NFL history to win his starting debut in a Monday Night Football game. King was also just the second Buc rookie to win his first start and is the first Tampa Bay quarterback of any kind to win his first start. That note fails to give King credit for his role in the Bucs' 16-3 win at Seattle (11/28), when he entered on the third play of the second half with Tampa Bay holding onto a slim 6-3 lead.
"We expect a lot from Shaun and we think he's going to be very, very good," said Dungy. "We went in ready to play the game and attack Detroit and Shaun handled it very well. He's not surprising us at all."
Even if King isn't doing the unexpected in Dungy's eyes, he is still raising eyebrows across the NFL, explaining the current national interest. Of course, the same can be said of the Buccaneers as a whole.