Respect begins with Packers
By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 24, 2002
TAMPA -- If the season ended today, the Bucs, Saints and Falcons would be in the playoffs.
|[Times file photo]
Warren Sapp and Brett Favre have waged a war of words in the past, but Favre plans to tone it down.
But playing in the NFC's toughest division doesn't account for much these days. Despite an 8-2 record, the Bucs' success often is considered a product of a soft schedule.
That's because only one victory, 20-6 at Atlanta, has come against a team with a winning record.
A victory over the Packers not only would give Tampa Bay the best record in the NFL but also might earn it recognition as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Receiver Keenan McCardell begs to differ.
"Who were we supposed to play? San Francisco? Oakland?" he said. "We beat the St. Louis Rams. Do you think anyone is looking forward to playing the Rams today?"
After an overtime loss to New Orleans on opening day, the Bucs played five of their next seven games on the road, winning four. If you think winning on the road is easy, even against weaker opponents, ask the Packers. They lost 31-21 at Minnesota last week. Or ask the Saints, who fell at Detroit Sept. 29.
In any case, few teams have a tougher road in the final month than the Bucs, who still must play New Orleans, Atlanta and Pittsburgh. Tampa Bay finishes the season Dec. 23 against the Bears in Champaign, Ill., where it's likely to be less than 40 degrees.
FAVRE FAREWELL?: If the Packers win the Super Bowl, we may have seen the last of Brett Favre.
"I don't know. I do think about it. I think about it every day," Favre said last week.
"Hopefully, (the decision is) not made for me by injury like some guys. Secondly, I hope it's not from a team aspect, 'Hey, we appreciate everything you've done, but you just don't have it anymore.' The money part is a factor. I hope that's not how it's decided, so what does that leave?
"I hope it's decided on my terms. Don't we all. Every player wants that, and the one thing ... I'd love to win a Super Bowl and get out. Who wouldn't? But if that doesn't happen, I hope I leave still in my mind and in everyone else's mind at the top of my game. Then everyone says, 'Well, why did he leave? He was still on the top of his game.' Well, I'd rather them say that than, 'Well, he stayed around too long.' "
TRASH TALK: There isn't better theater in the NFL than watching Favre and Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp compete.
Today marks the 16th time Sapp and the three-time NFL MVP will meet.
But the clash that put Sapp-Favre on the map was a playoff game at Lambeau Field at the end of the 1997 season when Sapp posted three sacks, two forced fumbles and jawed all day with the Packers quarterback.
"Look, I know I'll be knocked down, I know I'll be hit, I know I'll be sacked, I know I'll be picked off and to think otherwise is naive," Favre said.
"But I will keep coming back, and that's what happens when we play each other."
Just don't expect as much trash talking this time ... at least from Favre.
"Will I jaw with Warren? I don't know, it's not anywhere in my game plan," Favre said. "I'm getting too old for that. It's tough enough without talking.
"He'll find when he gets a little older that he'll try to conserve as much energy as possible. Believe me, that's the truth. I was so tired last year, if he was wondering why I didn't say anything, well, I couldn't breathe."
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