Back in the Running
While the Lions boasted about slowing the Packers' passing game, Edgar Bennett quietly answered questions in the visitors' locker room about one of the few bright spots in Green Bay's Sunday performance: his stellar running.
The self-effacing Bennett deflected questions about himself, praised his offensive line and talked about the brilliance of Barry Sanders. Though he had the best afternoon of his career, it was small solace. The Packers slipped to 5-3 and lost a key division game in the process.
Bennett ran for a career-high 121 yards on 22 carries. His previous best was 107 yards in his first pro start, against Chicago on Nov. 22, 1992. With little fanfare Bennett, the primary runner in coach Mike Holmgren's one-back, pass-oriented offense, has established himself as one of the NFC's better runners. He has rushed for 589 yards on 170 carries in eight games, and he needs only 35 yards to surpass his previous career high.
The fourth-year player from Florida State is on pace for a 1,000-yard rushing season, a feat last accomplished in Green Bay by Terdell Middleton in 1978. Fifty-three running backs have spent at least one game on the Packer roster since Middleton cracked the 1,000-yard barrier.
Though it would be nice to end the franchise's 1,000-yard famine, Bennett sees more important matters at hand. "My goals are the playoffs and the Super Bowl," he says. "If I happen to get 1,000 yards, that's O.K. But it's not my goal. If I get 1,000 yards to help this team win, then it's fine."
All is unusually quiet for Tampa Bay rookie Warren Sapp these days. As a starter at right defensive tackle in the Buccaneers' first five games, Sapp rarely raised an eyebrow with his play. After he lost his starting spot in Week 6 to Santana Dotson, the 1992 NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year, Sapp's reaction to the demotion was reserved. "That was fine with me," he said. "I'm learning a lot. Santana has been in the league for four years, and everything he has learned, he's passing along to me."
This relative serenity is quite a contrast to the firestorm that engulfed Sapp on NFL draft day last April. Because of reports of failed drug tests, the Lombardi Award winner from Miami, once projected by many as the first pick in the draft, slid to the Buccaneers at No. 12.
"He has subtly shown up," says Buc defensive line coach Tom Pratt. "He hasn't had a lot of numbers. Maybe a little of that is the way we rotate our linemen."