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Gramatica kicks sand at Sauerbrun

By FRANK PASTOR

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 18, 2002


TAMPA -- Martin Gramatica is not one to kick a guy when he's down. But the Bucs kicker couldn't resist a few digs at Carolina punter Todd Sauerbrun after Sunday's 23-10 victory.

TAMPA -- Martin Gramatica is not one to kick a guy when he's down. But the Bucs kicker couldn't resist a few digs at Carolina punter Todd Sauerbrun after Sunday's 23-10 victory.

Sauerbrun said Friday that Gramatica's field-goal celebrations were "making other kickers look bad."

"He really needs to chill out, plain and simple," Sauerbrun said. "You don't see me jumping around when I hit a 70-yard punt like I've never done that before."

Gramatica, who has made seven field goals in two victories over Carolina this season, was ready with a response.

"One hundred percent of the people that know (Sauerbrun) don't like him, so how can I get upset about that?" Gramatica said. "I don't respect him.

"If you look at all his punts, 50 percent of the punts roll. That's why we had two return men back there, because he rolls it about 30 yards. So, I'm not worried about him."

Sauerbrun averaged 41 yards on five punts Sunday, with a long of 46 yards.

Asked what he told Sauerbrun after the game, Gramatica said, "Good job."

BLOWN AWAY: Heavy winds forced the cancellation of the pregame flag show and prompted Carolina kicker Shayne Graham to have Terry Cousin hold for him on kickoffs.

But Gramatica and Bucs punter Tom Tupa didn't seem to be affected.

"You've just got to aim it and hope," said Gramatica, who made field goals of 20, 32 and 41 yards. "It's one of those days where you just have to be lucky."

Tupa kept his punts low and toward the sideline, preventing the wind from getting a hold of them and limiting punt returner Steve Smith to one return for 5 yards.

GOING NOWHERE: The Bucs continued to struggle with their running game. Running backs Michael Pittman, Mike Alstott and Aaron Stecker and quarterback Brad Johnson combined for 67 yards on 29 carries, a 2.3-yard average.

Pittman and Stecker lost fumbles, leading to 10 Carolina points.

Pittman, who carried 21 times for 57 yards, was booed loudly after a 3-yard loss late in the third quarter. But he said appearances can be deceiving.

"I ran the ball hard," Pittman said. "I know I probably didn't have that big of yardage, but if you were out there and saw me run, I was running as hard as I could, jumping over defenders and just trying to get what I could get done."

NOTHING NEW: Defensive tackle Warren Sapp did not play the final defensive series, but he said it had nothing to do with a lower back strain that limited his practice time last week.

"I don't play a lot of last series," Sapp said. "That's no reason to put my back in a position to where I can't go hunt (Brett) Favre and (Aaron) Brooks in another week.

"We played it smart. I went in and played my game and we got ourselves a win, and there's no reason to put myself in that position."

LOOK FAMILIAR? Keyshawn Johnson's 1-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter in which he started on the right wing and ran left across the formation, was a variation of a play the Bucs ran two weeks ago against Minnesota.

In that game, Johnson lined up in the same spot but ran a fade to the right.

"Pretty good stuff," Johnson said.

NOT SO FAST: Cornerback Ronde Barber looked to have his first touchdown of the season and the Bucs' fifth defensive score when he returned a Smith fumble 30 yards late in the fourth quarter.

But after a review, officials ruled that Smith touched the ball while out of bounds, returning possession to Carolina.

"I thought it was a touchdown," Barber said. "I saw it hit the ref's foot, but he's in play, he's part of the playing field, so I don't know who touched it."

HELPING HAND: Gramatica's 20-yard field-goal attempt in the second quarter appeared to be headed wide left when Carolina's Shane Burton tipped it up and over the crossbar.

Would it have been good otherwise? Gramatica wasn't saying.

"I know it went through," he said. "I'll take it."

SACK HAPPY: Defensive end Greg Spires' first-quarter sack extended the Bucs' streak to 54 games, the longest active streak in the league. The last time they did not get a sack was Oct. 3, 1999, against Minnesota.

STARTING YOUNG: Stona Savannah (girls 8-9) of Safety Harbor, Nakendra Newsome (girls 14-15) of Tampa and Matthew Edelman (boys 14-15) of New Port Richey placed first in their age groups in the NFL Gatorade Punt, Pass and Kick Team Championship.

Their scores will be compared with others from around the nation, with the top eight (four boys and four girls) in each group advancing to the National Finals at a playoff game to be determined.

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