DT Warren Sapp leads a pass rush that could be dangerous for Falcon QB Chris Chandler
After a packed media session during lunch on Wednesday and a circus-atmosphere practice later that afternoon, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Thursday media session was calm and low-key by contrast. Only a handful of writers were in attendance and many of the Bucs' players were elsewhere watching film, undergoing treatment or getting in a few games of dominoes in the player's lounge.
There was, however, Warren Sapp, and where Sapp is on Thursday, so is the media. A vocal leader and a student of the game, Sapp generally has very keen insights into the upcoming contest, so he is a favorite source of information for writers and television reporters.
Buccaneers.com is no different. With a trip to Atlanta just a few days away and the Bucs' dominant pass rush a focal point against a Falcons team that has surrendered 32 sacks already, Sapp is deservedly the center of attention. The Bucs' leader with 10.5 sacks, already just 2.5 off the team record, Sapp offered his thoughts on the following topics:
What happened to the corner blitz, which was so successful in the first few games of 2000?
"Early in the season, we did a good job," said Sapp. "We caught some people in a protection where we knew where the center was going. Ronde took advantage of that early in the season and we've been able to bring it back now and then."
We saw blitzes of almost every variety against Minnesota, but only two sacks (one by Sapp).
"We kept missing him," said Sapp with a laugh. "It's tough to tackle a water buffalo."
Is the defensive line focused on trying to break the NFL team sack record of 72?
"I don't even know what it is," said the second-leading sack man in Buc history. "We're just going to go out each week and do what we can do. Sometimes they're there for the taking, and sometimes there not."
What do you mean by that?
"I just think back to the Jets game and the Indianapolis game (in 1997)," he explained. "Whenever you think you have an opponent that you can rush against well, you get in the game and you get into a dogfight. Then there's a week when you rush like crazy and you're all over the quarterback and you just don't get there. Sometimes it just works like that. Other weeks, you think it's going to be a dogfight to get him, and you get nine. It's funny like that sometimes."
Will the Bucs be able to inflate their sack total significantly against Atlanta, which ranks 28th in the league in protecting its quarterback?
"We're just going to go out and shut down the running game – that's going to be our first focus," said Sapp. "If we get that running game under control, we're going to see what happens. We feel real good about going up there on turf with a fast line and a good offense that's rolling right now. Hopefully, we can get some points, get a lead and see if they want to drop back and throw it.
That's always been our focus. The easiest thing to do in this league is to turn around and hand it to your running back. If you can get that thing going…if you get 100 yards in this league, you're going to win nine times out of 10. That's got to be our first focus, to shut down Jamal Anderson. If we get him under control, we feel pretty good. If it's going to be a throw-and-catch game, and we're doing the rushing, we feel pretty good.
Speaking of which, how does Jamal Anderson look on film in his comeback from last year's knee injury?
"He's running the ball good," said Sapp appreciatively. "And they feel like he's running it good so there giving him the ball more and more and more. Whenever you feed a running back, they get confidence every time they touch the ball, thinking, 'This could be the play that I break one.' So that's got to be our focus, and it is."
What if the Bucs' can't stop Anderson?
"If we play like we played against them a year ago, they'll beat us badly with Jamal Anderson running the ball," said Sapp. "They were running the ball pretty effectively in our own house (without Anderson). We had to fight and fight, and Martin (Gramatica) had to bail us out at the end. We play some crazy football sometimes.