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Defensive trio tops All-Pros

Derrick Brooks, Simeon Rice and Warren Sapp are Tampa Bay's first-team representatives.

By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 5, 2003


TAMPA -- They can hire an offensive guru as head coach, sign free-agent receivers, tight ends and a running back, or set the record for the most wins in team history.

But defense defines the Bucs and three members of that No. 1 unit were named to the Associated Press NFL All-Pro first team Saturday.

Defensive tackle Warren Sapp, linebacker Derrick Brooks and defensive end Simeon Rice joined 13 first-time choices to the team, selected by a nationwide panel of sportswriters and broadcasters.

Brooks, who received one vote for the league's Most Valuable Player, had perhaps his best season and was named to the first team for the third time in four years.

"As always, I'm very grateful to be considered one of the best at my position," Brooks said. "It is a tremendous honor and just a signal of how well we played as a team this season, especially on defense."

Not only did Brooks set a career high with five interceptions, he had four returns of turnovers for touchdowns, one shy of the league record held by Ken Houston. His three interception returns are the most by a linebacker in a season in league history.

Rice, who figures to be a candidate, along with Brooks, for defensive player of the year, had 15.5 sacks, one shy of the team record.

Sapp, who had 7.5 sacks through the first eight games but none in the final eight, was named to the first team for the fourth straight year.

Two other Bucs defenders, safety John Lynch and cornerback Ronde Barber, were named second-team All-Pro. This is Lynch's fourth overall selection. He was first-team All-Pro in '99 and 2000.

Barber, snubbed for the Pro Bowl, was a first-team All-Pro last season.

The Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders each had four players named first-team All-Pro. The Bucs were second.

Colts receiver Marvin Harrison was the only unanimous selection to the team, chosen by a nationwide panel of sports writers and broadcasters who cover the league.

The team featured 13 first-time choices, including Giants rookie tight end Jeremy Shockey.

Veteran safety Rod Woodson of Oakland made the team for the sixth time, and at the third different position (once as kick returner and four times as a cornerback).

Also, starting lineups for the 2003 Pro Bowl were announced at halftime of the AFC and NFC wild-card games.

Sapp, Rice, Brooks, Lynch and fullback Mike Alstott will start. The Bucs have the most starters of any team.

Three Oakland veterans, including league MVP Rich Gannon, will start for the AFC. There also will be three starters from the Chiefs and Dolphins.

-- Information from Times wires was used in this report.


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