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Ex-Bucs savoring matchup

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 20, 2003

OAKLAND, Calif. -- There will be some great matchups in this Super Bowl.

Keyshawn Johnson against Charles Woodson.

Ronde Barber against Jerry Rice.

Derrick Brooks against Rich Gannon.

And Warren Sapp against Frank Middleton -- on the line but, even better, at the microphones.

"I think Sapp's talking game is a little better than mine," Middleton said. "I've got a whole week, but I think he practices more than I do in the mirror."

Oakland defensive end Regan Upshaw, a former Buc, also gives Sapp the edge.

"I have to go with Sapp," Upshaw said. "I love Frank, and I love Sapp, but Sapp is a talkaholic. He's a great talker."

And as far as on the field, where Sapp will try to go through Middleton to get to quarterback Gannon.

"Nobody's got the advantage," Middleton said. "I've changed a lot since I left Tampa. I don't play the same way. I've matured a lot. I'm a different guy than he last saw, and he's a different guy than I last saw. It will be all about us. It's something I want, and I'm sure he's going to be chomping at the bit to get me. We're going to have a great time.

Getting to see their old teammates will be fun, Middleton and Upshaw said. But it also will provide an opportunity for revenge against an organization that discarded them.

"This is the game I wanted since I left two years ago," Middleton said. "I've been waiting for this moment. This is what I wanted, and I finally got it. God is good."

Upshaw, who was traded to Jacksonville during the 1999 season then signed with the Raiders, also was looking forward to playing against his old mates.

"It's going to be exciting going against guys I watched destroy other players, and now I've got to go against them," Upshaw said. "You've got Mike Alstott, he's a heck of a back. Keyshawn Johnson, I played against him in college. Look at the defense, all the guys I've played with -- Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Derrick Brooks. It's going to be exciting to see them and banter with them on the sideline."

Middleton said he is pleased for his old buddies but is particularly upset with general manager Rich McKay, holding him responsible for the decision to let him go.

"I'm happy for their team, Rich McKay is another thing," Middleton said. "I'm happy for all those guys. You play four years with guys you kind of get to love. I know all those guys (play hard) every week. I love those guys, but the front office ... "

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