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Sapp, Pack coach square off with barbs

Block during an INT sets the Packers' Mike Sherman off, and Warren Sapp doesn't back down.

By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 25, 2002

Block during an INT sets the Packers' Mike Sherman off, and Warren Sapp doesn't back down.

TAMPA -- Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp and Green Bay coach Mike Sherman exchanged heated words after Sunday's game over a hit, and its aftermath, that Sapp laid on Packers tackle Chad Clifton. The block was made during Brian Kelly's return of a third-quarter interception that set up the go-ahead touchdown.

Sherman said he was upset with the hit, which sent Clifton, who was not near Kelly, to the hospital with a hip injury, and Sapp's celebration as Clifton lay motionless on the field.

"I just went up to Warren and told him that I didn't appreciate the lick he put on Clifton. That was the extent of it," Sherman said. "The joviality that existed after -- when a guy's laying on the ground with numbness in his legs -- I didn't think that was appropriate for any NFL player. I have a lot of respect for the game, and I just didn't think there was a place for that. We'll look at the tape, and maybe I overreacted. We'll see."

Sapp, told of Sherman's comments, said he "didn't know what his deal was.

"I guess he can't repeat what he said either, because he's lying," Sapp said. "That ain't what he said. He's a lying (expletive) hound. If he ain't big enough of a man to say what he said, then that ends this discussion. He can carry his (butt) home with that loss."

Sapp had to be restrained after the two traded words. He said the exchange might have escalated in his earlier playing days: "He's lucky I'm not 25 without kids and a conscience. Boy, it would have been ugly. ... He would have gotten a (butt) whupping, right on the 30-yard line. I wouldn't have even thought about it."

Clifton was taken off on a stretcher and Sherman said he would be hospitalized overnight with a severely sprained hip. Asked if he thought it was a cheap shot, the Packers coach said: "The NFL has to determine that. What I saw looked kind of cheap. The afterthought, the after reaction when a guy's laying numb on the ground, you're responsible for that. To be happy about that, that bothers me a little bit. I think it should bother the game of football as well."

Kelly's return to the Packer 18 set up Brad Johnson's touchdown to Joe Jurevicius. A two-point conversion put the Bucs up 14-7.

Bucs defensive linemen Ellis Wyms said Sherman came up to him after the game and told him to tell "No. 99 that what he did was chicken---- and he's a chicken----." When Wyms questioned Sherman, Sherman sought out Sapp, who just finished an interview as part of Fox's national TV broadcast.

Sapp said he thought he made a clean block.

"The way I saw it was Clifton's running across the field, and hey, heat-seeking missile ... ," Sapp said. "It's no different than them putting a bull's-eye on me the last 16 times they've played me and sending people after me and all this crazy (stuff). I get one good, clean hit and now I'm the dirtiest player there is."

As for the celebration, Sapp said: "Well, what about (Packers receiver) Donald Driver dancing his (butt) off in the end zone? Wait, he didn't do that tonight. (Though Driver caught a TD pass in the first quarter.) It's a little different when he's on the receiving end of it."

Bucs coach Jon Gruden said: "I'm going to investigate that. I don't like to see that. I'm going to find out exactly why, and I will comment later."

-- Times staff writer Roger Mills contributed to this report.

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