© St. Petersburg Times, published January 26, 2003
SAN DIEGO -- If the Bucs have been watching, they will know to go after Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson, who is noticeably slowed by soreness in the right leg he fractured last month.
Woodson says they should know better.
"This is what you dream about when you first play football," he said. "I played in a national championship game in college, and now I have this one. This is it. This is the highest level of football you can play. This is the biggest game on Earth. I know I have one more game left in me."
It's been a rough year for Woodson, the Heisman Trophy winner from Michigan. He missed seven starts and most of an eighth game because of a broken shoulder, hamstring and groin injuries, and the broken leg, for which he had Christmas Eve surgery to have a plate implanted.
"Not being able to play at my best is tough, it really is," Woodson said. "I want to be the best. I believe I am when I'm healthy."
Woodson was clearly off in Oakland's first two playoff games -- "My play out there was unacceptable," he said -- and the Jets and Titans took advantage, throwing his way more than 20 times. He has been beaten more frequently and resorted to committing more penalties than usual.
But Woodson practiced Thursday and Friday and insists he will be better tonight. His teammates are counting on it.
"He was hurting, and everyone can understand why," safety Derrick Gibson said. "He'll be fine. It's the biggest game of his life. He'll do everything he needs to do to be the old Charles Woodson."
READY TO GO: After a 40-minute walk-through at Qualcomm Stadium coach Bill Callahan said: "Our players are ready to go. Let's play the game."
Callahan said all players took part in the workout and are expected to be available to play.
There is, however, a question about the availability of receiver Tim Brown, whose wife is on the verge of delivering twins.
"We're prepared to help him in any way possible," Callahan said, adding a private plane would be available to Brown if needed to use in the hours before or directly after the game.
"It's totally Tim's call if something comes up," Callahan said.
The Raiders had an 11 o'clock curfew Saturday night.
NO LOVE LOST: Raiders receiver Jerry Porter didn't have many nice things to say last week about his former coach, Jon Gruden.
"I don't know what it was with him," Porter said. "He was a fiery-type kind of guy, and I'm not that guy. You'd think two guys could co-exist well, but he was trying to turn me into a fiery, rah-rah guy that feeds off the way he coaches. I was responding to him, but just as we were starting to mesh, he took off."
Porter said their differences could be as simple as the young receiver not responding correctly to an easy question such as "How are you doing?"
"He would ask me how I'm doing, and he'd expect me to say "Great, Coach! I'm great! I'm feeling this and this and this!' My response to "How you doing?' was "Chillin,' " Porter said. "It actually worked out better for the team that he left. The Buccaneers sent us four draft picks and a good lump sum. We addressed a couple of needs and got to the Super Bowl."
Porter said he had no desire to speak to Gruden during Super Bowl week -- and says he has no motivation to show him he deserved more passes thrown his way in his first two NFL seasons.
"I don't have to show Jon anything," Porter said. "I have to show Callahan. If Jon sees it, so be it. He sees it already. I don't have to please the Buccaneers."
TRUTH HURTS: Brown raised a few eyebrows, and the ire of a few Bucs, when he said the Tampa Bay defense can't compare to the Ravens of two years ago. Tony Siragusa, a key member of that Baltimore team, said Brown was right.
"Everybody's trying to make a big deal of it, but is it true? Probably," Siragusa said. "I don't think Tim was making a derogatory statement about Tampa, but let's face facts. Tampa Bay isn't the defense the Ravens were. And I think Tim is getting confidence knowing that they went up against the greatest defense and now they're going up against Tampa, which isn't even close to the best."
STAY PUT: The Bucs have enjoyed success lately when they've inserted Warren Sapp on the offensive line to block during goal-line and short-yardage situations. "D-line should stay on defense," guard Frank Middleton said. "He's not O-line. Maybe he can do it for one play, but he can't hold up."
READING FOR RAIDERS: Al Davis may be a rebel-type in the NFL's eyes, but the Raiders owner apparently knows his Herman Melville. Fullback Jon Ritchie and Davis once engaged in a conversation about the noted writer.
"He was an English major," said Ritchie, who played college ball at Stanford. "I was an English major and we talked a little Melville. That's coming from a guy who thinks the world is his oyster. He takes the time just because he cares just to rap about his favorite authors. That was important to me."
REGAN REPORT: Defensive end Regan Upshaw kept a lower profile during the week than the Raiders' other ex-Buc, Middleton, but still got his shots in. What did he remember about being Tampa Bay's first-round pick in the 1996 draft out of Cal-Berkeley?
"I didn't want to go to Tampa," Upshaw said. "I didn't know where Tampa was. I didn't like the color of the old uniforms, the orange and white. I thought it was ugly."
MISSING YOU: This game could have a happy homecoming for defensive tackle Darrell Russell, but the San Diego area product is missing the show. Russell, a former No. 1 draft pick and Pro Bowl player, is serving a one-year suspension for three violations of the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Under league rules, he isn't permitted to attend practices or any team events.
SETTLING IN: The last time the Raiders played in the Super Bowl, against the Redskins at Tampa Stadium in 1984, they were representing Los Angeles. They moved back to Oakland before the 1995 season.
"When we were in L.A. it was a situation where we were being outshined by the Lakers and the Kings, and even the Dodgers won a championship in 1988," Brown said. "It is a tough situation as a player. When you're competing with Magic (Johnson) and (Wayne) Gretzky and (Kirk) Gibson, it's really a no-win situation. So it was tough to feel like you had a home."
LIKE FATHER ... : Safety Anthony Dorsett said he know's he will never escape the shadow of famous father Tony, but he is determined to make a name for himself. "In my mind, I have always been Anthony," he said. "It's everyone else who characterizes me as the son of a Hall of Famer."