Sapp sits out, but should play Sunday
By ROGER MILLS, DARRELL FRY
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 15, 2002
TAMPA -- Defensive tackle Warren Sapp sat out practice Thursday, suffering from spasms in his lower back, but he is considered probable for Sunday's game.
He injured his back in Wednesday's practice.
"We held Warren out," coach Jon Gruden said. "He's had a little back spasms, and we'll see how he feels (today). Maybe he'll get a little practice in (today), but we expect him to play. But he's still got a little soreness in there, and we're trying to get the big fella right."
Gruden said the injury doesn't appear to be serious.
"You know Warren, he twists around in there and felt some spasms," Gruden said. "We're going to continue to ice him down and see how he does (today)."
Meanwhile center Jeff Christy, who had his knee scoped Nov. 4, and receiver Joe Jurevicius practiced for the second day without complication and appear set for Sunday's game.
Starting quarterback Brad Johnson, whose fractured rib kept him out of the Oct. 27 Panthers game, continues to recover.
"He's throwing the ball well," Gruden said. "I wouldn't say he's 100 percent recovered from the rib injury, nor is (receiver Keenan) McCardell, Jurevicius, or Christy or a lot of these guys at this time of year. He is, I think, returning to health. It certainly helps if we can keep people away from him."
Rookie running back Travis Stephens (left big toe sprain) and defensive end Corey Smith (left knee sprain) are questionable.
KNOW THE RULES: Reports that Panthers rookie defensive end Julius Peppers might have tested positive for a banned substance rolled through the Bucs locker room with some players expressing shock and others support for the league's sack leader (10 sacks).
But Gruden said while outlawing some substances still is controversial, the players know the rules.
"It's a tough league," Gruden said. "You sometimes don't realize how hard this league is. You've got to wear your socks at a certain depth and length or you get fined. You have to be careful how you tackle and what you put in your mouth. You certainly have to be on top of the rules that are in place in this league.
"They're very specific. If you're not educated, not informed, then you're going to be subjected to fines, suspensions and things of that nature."
Gruden said the Bucs training staff, led by Todd Toriscelli, has the responsibility of informing the players what is allowed and what is not.
"The specifics of what is a legal substance and what is an illegal substance, I turn that over to Todd and his staff and they do a good job of informing our players as to what they can and can't take," Gruden said. "It's a very controversial thing right now, obviously."
Peppers' sample will be retested this week and should it test positive again, he'll have 10 days to appeal the ruling. During that time, Peppers is expected to be able to play and likely will be in uniform Sunday.
"I want him to play," right tackle Kenyatta Walker said. "He's a great player and that's a challenge. I definitely want him to play. On a game like this, I don't want him on the sideline."
HIGH PRAISE: This season, the Bucs and the Panthers have defensive excellence in common and it seems they can thank a certain coaching influence.
Former Bucs coach Tony Dungy is credited as the primary reason for the rise to prominence of the Bucs defense. And he seems to have played a role in Carolina's turn around as well.
Panthers defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, who played for the Vikings from 1992-95, said Dungy has been one of the biggest influences on his decision to be a coach.
"Tony was my inspiration," Del Rio said. "Not only in convincing me that this was the right business for me, but also because I have so much respect for the way he went about his job as a man and a leader when I played for him."
And there's more: Who was Del Rio's linebackers coach with the Vikings? Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.
THE REAL DEAL: Panthers receiver Muhsin Muhammad might be one of the best-kept secrets in the league. He led the NFC in receptions in 1999, the year he made the Pro Bowl, and tied for the league lead in 2000 with 102 catches. But injuries hampered him last season and this season, perhaps costing him some popularity. Playing for a losing team hasn't helped, either.
"He hasn't necessarily been one of those guys catching 100 balls year in and year out. It's difficult for people to look past that," Panthers quarterback Rodney Peete said. "But he's definitely in the upper echelon of receivers in this league. I think that given a full year and being in the same system and being healthy through the whole season, I think he could put up those type of numbers."
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