Lynch plays to his standards
By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 8, 2002
TAMPA -- John Lynch doesn't listen to sports-talk radio shows.
What he would've heard last week were a few callers and hosts questioning whether the 10-year veteran, playing in the final month of the regular season, also has reached the December of his career.
Nonsense, Lynch says.
Although fans might not have seen as many kill shots from the kamikaze Pro Bowl safety, he is playing at his usual high standard.
The difference is that Lynch has had to share his role of walking up to support the run with free safety Dexter Jackson, whose 69 tackles are seven fewer than his mentor.
The Bucs have benefited from the flexibility, and Lynch's body is no worse for less wear.
"I've graded out as high or higher than I ever have," Lynch said. "We're winning and that's the most important part. I feel like I'm having a real good year, I really do. I'm used to making more tackles. Those will come. I'm confident that they will."
Now that the Bucs are in crunch time, look for Lynch to do the crunching. He also is third on the team with three interceptions, and his knack for making game-sealing picks is documented.
"To be honest, come playoff time, they keyed on me so much, we thought maybe we ought to do something different," Lynch said. "I'm hoping this year it goes the other way and they turn me loose. Last week in New Orleans, I had 10 tackles. So I think it's getting to the point where I can get more involved. I don't worry about that, I worry about playing to my standard and leading the team to a championship."
THE WORD ON SAPP: It's hard to believe that professional football players, who make millions of dollars, still are motivated by bulletin board material. But the Falcons didn't mince words when asked about the field antics of defensive tackle Warren Sapp.
Sapp helped destroy the Falcons in a 20-6 win at Atlanta this season. His interception and lateral to linebacker Derrick Brooks led to the final touchdown.
Sapp celebrated by twirling in circles with his arms spread like the wings of a dazed Falcon. Atlanta players say they're motivated by the memory of Sapp's showboating.
"Yeah, it does, man," nose guard Ed Jasper told reporters last week. "You don't like anybody coming into your house disrespecting you. No matter how you put it, that's what he was doing, teasing our fans and us.
"If it was anybody else, he'd have gotten fined (for taunting), but he didn't because it's Sapp. He's one of the big names. He does what he wants to do, or at least it seems that way."
Said linebacker Keith Brooking: "It's pretty vivid in my mind. When the interception was being challenged, he was hooting and hollering, throwing his arms in the air and looking at our sideline. I've got a pretty good memory about stuff like that."
A-TRAIN A-GAIN?: The Bucs are disappointed in running back Michael Pittman, although one team official noted that former tailback Warrick Dunn's average last season wasn't much better than the 3.4 yards by the Cardinals' free agent.
Then again, Dunn played with a severe foot injury, and his offensive line was considerably less talented than the one Pittman and Mike Alstott are running behind.
What bothers the Bucs about Pittman isn't his failure to reach the end zone in 159 carries. That's play calling. It's his lack of power.
Don't be surprised when Alstott gets to carry the load today. Coach Jon Gruden mentioned last week the team needed to "pound the ball." No one pounds it better for the Bucs than A-Train.
Even though his eight carries for 17 yards matched Pittman at New Orleans last weekend, Alstott also had a 44-yard touchdown reception.
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