Sapp takes punishment, dishes it out
After being benched for the first quarter, the Bucs' defensive leader registers a sack and blocks a field goal. Warren Sapp started Sunday's game in Tony Dungy's doghouse, but later made a big play to help Tampa Bay get into overtime. Sapp, last season's NFL Defensive Player of the Year, was held out of the first quarter as punishment for being late to a team meeting Saturday. Once in the game, the Pro Bowl defensive tackle registered a sack and partially blocked a field goal that prevented the Redskins from taking a six-point lead with 43 seconds remaining in regulation.

Sapp's absence from the first quarter didn't appear to cost the Bucs, who lost 20-17 in overtime. With Tyoka Jackson starting in Sapp's place, the defense kept Washington's high-powered offense in check, allowing just 19 first-quarter yards as Tampa Bay took a 7-0 lead. Sapp came in at 14:04 of the second quarter. He didn't have a big game, racking up two solo tackles and one assist. But he put his stamp on the game quickly.

After tying the game at 7, the Redskins threatened to take the lead with a first and 10 at the Tampa Bay 35 with 1:15 remaining before halftime. But Sapp bullied his way through the line and dragged down quarterback Brad Johnson for a 7-yard loss. That essentially killed the Redskins' drive, pushing them out of field-goal range. After a Johnson incompletion and a 4-yard pass to the Tampa Bay 38, the Redskins were forced to punt.

The blocked field goal came with the Redskins leading 17-14. Sapp pushed up the middle and got a hand on former Bucs kicker Michael Husted's 35-yard attempt, leaving the kick well short. "I got a great push from Don (Davis) behind me, and I just got my hand up," Sapp said. "Mike is notorious for kicking low balls. I blocked a couple in practice when he was with us, so we knew that coming in."

Sapp, however, refused to talk about sitting out the first quarter even though the punishment for such a team violation was typical. Last season, backup defensive lineman John McLaughlin and receiver Reidel Anthony were declared inactive for a game because of a similar infraction. Sapp said he was informed before the game that he would be held out of the first quarter, but he would not elaborate. When pressed about it, he responded by saying, "Next question." Eventually, he threatened to stop answering questions.

Sapp clearly was frustrated by the loss. Having to miss the first quarter only made things worse. After answering the final questions, he dressed and left quietly, speaking only to a few people. Other players were tight-lipped about the matter, too. "I'm proud of the fact that he didn't make a big deal about it. He accepted it just like everybody else on the team," linebacker Derrick Brooks said. "He sat out the first quarter and then came in and played a heck of a ballgame."

Brooks said the Bucs missed Sapp while he was out, but his absence didn't affect their ability to contain Washington. "We're a team and we just moved on and somebody else had to step up," said Brooks, who led the team with 11 tackles. The defensive line did a good job, especially Jackson. He had an excellent game."

Darrell Fry , The St.Petersburg Times 2000