For nearly two decades, Warren Sapp has owned one of the most prominent spots in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers record book. In 2000, Sapp exploded for a career-best 16.5 sacks, breaking Lee Roy Selmon's single-season mark of 13.0, which itself had stood for 26 years. It was a future Hall-of-Famer supplanting the Buccaneers' original Hall of Fame superstar.
Now that record is in danger of falling again, and Sapp is openly rooting for the man who may soon supplant him at the top, just like he did to Selmon at the turn of the century. Shaquil Barrett has matched that total of 16.5 sacks in 2019 and has two more games to break it. He got the record-tying sack last Sunday in Detroit, and afterward he got a message on Instagram from the man he's tied with.
"He told me my work isn't done yet, go get the record," Barrett recounted on Wednesday. "And I told him, 'I got it.'"
Sapp has previously told Barrett that he wanted to be in the building when the record was broken, and he may have that chance if he's at Saturday's game against Houston at Raymond James Stadium. Barrett is riding a streak of four straight games with at least one sack and has only been shut out in that category three times in 14 games this year. The opposing quarterback, Deshaun Watson, has been sacked an average of 2.8 times per game this year and Houston's offense ranks 24th in the NFL with a sacks-per-pass-attempt rate of 8.58%.
Barrett should have his chances and he's glad that Sapp will be rooting him on.
"It means a lot that he appreciates the way I'm playing the game right now, and he appreciates the fact of me beating his record and what I'm doing on the field," said Barrett. "Just for him to see what I'm doing and encourages me to do it, it feels amazing."
Barrett's had a pretty amazing week, actually. Two days after he tied the record he found out that he was going to be a Pro Bowler for the first time. He couldn't quite claim with a straight face that he was surprised – he figured his numbers were impressive enough to catch league-wide notice – but he did admit to being "ecstatic" about the honor. He also admitted that he wasn't thinking about the Pro Bowl when he arrived in Tampa with a chance to be a starter after four seasons in an up-and-down rotational role in Denver. He did have a milestone in mind, and he's been past it for quite some time now.
"It was not [on my mind]," said Barrett of Pro Bowl honors. "I wanted to go, but it wasn't something I was thinking of [in the spring]. The only thing I wanted to do was get sacks. If I would have got double-digit sacks, that's all I cared about. But coming with sacks is more notoriety and potential Pro Bowls. Now that I'm there, I want to be a mainstay now and keep doing it continuously."
He'll be a mainstay in the Bucs' record book, particularly if he gets one more to stand alone at the top, and if he can become the first Tampa Bay player ever to lead the NFL in sacks. Since that record seems to have a shelf life of about 20 years, Barrett could be the sack king in Tampa for a long time.
Or he could go after it himself next year. Speaking of being a mainstay, Barrett made it clear on Wednesday – and not for the first time – that he would like to remain a Buccaneer next year. He would become a free agent again in March if no new deal was in place by then.
"I want to be here," said Barrett. "I'm still going back home to Colorado, training and stuff there, but as long as my plans go I'm planning on being back here to start OTAs. That's what I'm looking at right now. It's the Bucs' to lose, and I don't think they're going to lose it."