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War of words

Sapp, Sherman sound off on third-quarter hit

Posted: Monday November 25, 2002 10:13 AM
  Warren Sapp hits Clifton Warren Sapp unloads on Chad Clifton (top right), while Brian Kelly makes for the sideline (bottom right). NFL/FOX

TAMPA, Fla. (CNNSI.com) -- Warren Sapp sat in front of his locker and answered the same question over and over.

Tampa Bay beat Green Bay 21-7 on Sunday in a meeting of teams with the top records in the NFL, however the hottest topic of discussion was what happened between the defensive tackle and Packers head coach Mike Sherman during an obscenity-laced exchange.

Sherman initiated the confrontation, waiting on the field for Sapp to finish a television interview. The coach accused Sapp of knocking one of his players out of the game with a cheap shot.

"What you did was wrong," Sherman said before he and Sapp were restrained from getting closer to each another.

"You're so tough, put a jersey on," Sapp said. "Win some more games."

Sherman was angry about a block Sapp put on Chad Clifton during Brian Kelly's return of a third-quarter interception that set up the Bucs' go-ahead touchdown. The offensive tackle was carted off with Sherman said was a severely sprained right hip.

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* Sapp doesn't get why Sherman is so worked up about his hit on Clifton.
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Sapp, who appeared to hit Clifton in the front of the right shoulder, said the hit was legal and he was stunned Sherman took exception. Sherman not only questioned the block, but thought Sapp made the situation worse by celebrating -- an accusation Sapp also denied.

"I just went up to Warren and I told him that I didn't appreciate the lick that he put on Clifton. That was the extent of it," Sherman said. "The joviality that existed after when a guy's laying on the ground, with numbness in his legs and fingers, I just thought that wasn't appropriate for any NFL player."

Sherman added that he may have overreacted, but that "what I saw looked kind of cheap." Some of Clifton's teammates, including Brett Favre, said they would wait to look at the film before commenting on whether the hit was legal.

Clifton was pursuing Kelly, but was not close to the interceptor, who ran the pick back 31 yards to the Packers' 18. Four plays later, the Bucs scored on Brad Johnson's 4-yard pass to Joe Jurevicius and added a 2-point conversion for a 14-7 lead.

Sherman apparently went out of his way to find Sapp after the game. Charles Lee, a former Packers receiver who was picked up by the Bucs earlier this season but was inactive on Sunday, said he shook Sherman's hand shortly before the confrontation.

"From what I heard, [Sherman] said, 'You cheap-shotted him,'" Lee said. "Whatever Mike said to him, he might have been in the wrong for it. If he had something to say about it, take it up with the league. That's not the way to go about it. I guess he was a little frustrated."

Neither Sapp nor Sherman would say what Sapp's response was.

Though few players in the Packers' locker room said they saw the hit themselves, the consensus seemed to be it was a dirty play.

"I didn't see it, but from what I hear, it was a cheap shot," safety Darren Sharper said. "I think [Sherman] thought it was bull----."

Receiver Terry Glenn said after the play, Sherman walked over the area of the bench where the offensive linemen sit and delivered a message.

 
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"He was pretty upset," Glenn said, "and he told them, 'Don't take that crap.'"

With the game still in doubt, the Packers didn't retaliate on Sapp.

"It's not the time to take a cheap shot and put the team in jeopardy," guard Mike Wahle said. "Unfortunately, he [Sapp] got away with it, but that's not to say we were going to get away with it. We're trying to win a football game.

"It's a violent sport, but everybody told me it was a cheap shot. That's why you have to have your head on a swivel. It sucks, but it's reality."

Fans' reactions on the Tampa Tribune message board was mixed:

  • As a longtime Bucs fan, I was appalled today by both the dirty play and the pathetic post-game actions of Warren Sapp.

  • Don't hate Sapp for playing the game, point the finger at the NFL for allowing such uncontested hits.

  • Mike Sherman showed how little class he has too.

  • The cheep [sic] shot on Chad Clifton by Warren Sapp was inexcusable.

  • Two words ... "contact sport".

  • I had a lot of respect for Sapp prior to this game. I always considered him a player that loved the game and gave 100% effort. Obviously, I was wrong.

    Sapp said the film will show he was just playing football.

    "I've got two or three [blockers] on me. We get a pick, Brian Kelly is running all over the field. I see a guy going at my man, I put a lick on him. What's the problem? I didn't hit him below the waist, there's no flag on the play. Is this not a contact sport?" Sapp said.

    "Nine referees on the field didn't find anything wrong with it, and I'm sure they're looking at 99 [Sapp's number]. I don't care if they review it. It's nothing but the man's running after the ball and I put a lick on him."

    The Associated Press, Tampa Tribune and Green Bay Press-Gazette contributed to this report.

     
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