Donnie Abraham's two interceptions against Atlanta last November were instrumental in the Bucs' victory
As any sports historian can tell you, it is often difficult to fairly compare players from different eras. Even a gulf as relatively narrow as 20 years can unsuccessfully pit memory against statistics, old against young, traditionalists against new blood.
Case in point: Currently running on Buccaneers.com is a fan poll designed to gather Tampa Bay fans' opinions on the best defensive players in franchise history. The nine choices (plus an out-clause known as 'Other') include four players currently forming the core of the Bucs' highly-rated defense and four players who played on Tampa Bay's top-ranked squad of 1979.
The early leaders in the poll are Warren Sapp and Lee Roy Selmon, the quarterback-hunting leaders of each era. Selmon is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is generally considered the best player in franchise history thus far. Sapp, the 1999 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, might eventually join Selmon in the Hall and is surely one of the most disruptive forces of his era. One of the two is likely to win this poll. Meanwhile, the rest of the fan voting has swung rather sharply to today's players, seemingly disproportionate to the stellar achievements of the 1979-era crowd.
Farther down in the voting is another pair of similar players from different times, defensive backs Donnie Abraham and Cedric Brown. By Monday afternoon, Abraham had picked up four percent of the vote while Brown had yet to register. By the top measure for defensive backs, however, Abraham is still four ticks behind Brown.
Brown's Tampa Bay career record for interceptions, 29, could fall this coming season, and the new prince of thieves for the Buccaneers would be Abraham. In just five seasons, Abraham has already snared 25 interceptions; that yearly average of exactly five, reproduced one more time in 2001, would give the former East Tennessee State standout possession of a record that no one else had even come close to challenging since Brown ended his nine-year Buccaneer run in 1984.
(Abraham, by the way, is actually third on the list. Former cornerback Mike Washington, who was Brown's teammate from 1976-84, had 28 interceptions.)
This is quite a feat for Abraham. Consider that Sapp is considered the best Buc pass rusher by a good margin since the days of Selmon, and he still needs 20 more QB takedowns to catch his storied predecessor (78.5 for Selmon to 58.5 for Sapp). Warrick Dunn (3,753 career rushing yards) and Mike Alstott (3,302) are easily two of the most productive backs in Buc annals, but neither will sniff James Wilder's career mark of 5,957 until at least 2002. Martin Gramatica has already put the team's two top single-season scoring marks in the books but would need to have three more similar campaigns to catch Michael Husted's franchise mark of 502 points.
But Abraham is poised to steal one from Brown, just as he did from opposing passers seven times last season. In fact, after tying a Buc rookie record with five picks in 1996 and hitting the same total in 1997, Abraham has posted two consecutive seven-interception campaigns. No other player in the NFL can make that claim over the past two seasons.
Abraham's 2000 exploits earned him his first Pro Bowl trip, an honor many felt was overdue. It also earned him a special highlight reel, courtesy of the magicians at NFL Films. As video evidence of Abraham's ball-hawking and tackling skills are strung together, Abraham is called 'one of the league's premier cornerbacks' by the NFL Films' narrator. The film concludes that the future is bright for both Abraham and the Buccaneers.
To watch Abraham's highlight film in Real Player format, please click here.