St. Petersburg Times Online: Sports

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

Oakland sends center home for going MIA

By Times staff writers

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 27, 2003


SAN DIEGO -- The Raiders sustained their first loss before the game, sending All-Pro center Barret Robbins home for disciplinary reasons.

Team officials had little comment, but according to several media reports, Robbins missed all of the team activities Saturday, including the midday walkthrough, and was out of contact until shortly before the 8: 45 p.m. team meeting, which he also missed.

Robbins was listed as inactive and replaced by Adam Treu, a six-year veteran who started 14 games last season when Robbins had a knee injury.

Robbins made his first Pro Bowl this season and was a key part of Oakland's veteran offensive line. He had been slowed by a foot injury but was expected to play.

Coach Bill Callahan told the team during Saturday night's meeting that Treu would start and "no one is bigger than the team."

"It was no distraction because I eliminated it," Callahan said. "He was essentially dismissed. I dismissed him and sent him back to Alameda. He missed some responsibilities and obligations."

Linebacker Bill Romanowski said the situation wasn't a distraction.

There were conflicting reports about where Robbins was, including an ABC report that he was receiving treatment at a San Diego hospital.

Robbins joins an infamous list.

At the 1989 Super Bowl in Miami, Cincinnati fullback Stanley Wilson was found in his hotel room in a cocaine-induced stupor the night before the game and did not play.

At the 1999 game, Atlanta safety Eugene Robinson was arrested the day before the game and charged with solicitation of prostitution. He played and was beaten on a touchdown pass.

CEREAL TALK: Wheaties will issue a commemorative box honoring the Bucs. The 18-ounce boxes will be available throughout the area beginning in about 21/2 weeks.

HE'S GOING: Usually, the MVP gets to shoot the Disney World commercial and be part of the postgame parade. But quarterback Brad Johnson will be in the parade today although Dexter Jackson won the award. Johnson and Gruden shot the commercial on the field.

SURPRISE: Receiver Keyshawn Johnson said Thursday he would not speak to the media for the rest of his career. But after catching six passes for 69 yards and celebrating a long-awaited Super Bowl victory, he stepped up to his microphone and smiled.

"I know I told you all I wouldn't talk, but do you think I would miss this moment for anything in the world?" Johnson said. "Do you honestly think I would miss the opportunity to talk to people who doubted us? I don't even know what to say. It feels so good. This is why I came to Tampa. It's unbelievable to me right now."

Johnson said what made the victory most gratifying was the way every facet of Tampa Bay's offense contributed to the victory.

"Brad Johnson was clicking. Michael Pittman ran the football," Johnson said. "We struggled all year with our running game, but we found it in the playoffs. We found it down the stretch, which is the most important thing."

COMING BACK: Jerry Rice will not go out on a sour note.

The Raiders' 40-year-old receiver squelched any talk of retirement after the game, in which he was shut out in the first half but finished with five catches for 77 yards and a touchdown.

"I'll be back next season," Rice said. "Without a doubt. Bar none."

Raiders veteran offensive tackle Lincoln Kennedy, who also had mentioned retirement, said he, too, will return.

"I have to redeem myself," said Kennedy, part of a line that gave up a season-high five sacks.

RELIGIOUS FERVOR: As fans hopped off the Qualcomm Stadium Trolley stop, they were greeted by the word of God.

A preacher and some of his team were stationed at the stop wearing sandwich boards with messages such as "Sin = Hell: Party now, pay later." And the message spouted into a bullhorn by one made the message clear to fans of both teams: "Watch your step or you'll burn in hell."

"Someone scores a touchdown, and you people go wacko," he shouted. "That's why Jesus said you need to be saved. San Diego, this is your wakeup call."

And the message wasn't just aimed at Raiders fans. Bucs fans were signaled out, too. But Raiders fans shouted back expletives and chanted, "Raaaaaaaaaaaiders."

Fans stopped to check out some of the other signs, such as the one that said "Either fumble with Satan in Hell, or touchdown with Jesus Christ in Heaven."

The preachers pleaded for fans to save themselves but cast a bleak picture for those who attended the game.

"Most of you who came to San Diego," the bullhorn screamed out, "that may be as close to heaven as you get."

SAVVY SCALPER: One scalper who refused to be interviewed went all out in his effort to trick ticket sellers.

He wore a Martin Gramatica jersey, an NFC Championship hat and even had a black and red towel hanging out of his back left pocket. As fans filed in, he waved a small piece of cardboard with "Need 2 desperate Buc fan" crudely scrawled.

But this "Bucs" fan was more interested in George Washington than Todd Washington. After two older gentlemen sold him two tickets, he rushed over and resold them to an anxious Bucs couple at a $200 profit. He then reassumed his spot and role of desperate Bucs fan.

IS THIS MIAMI? It was so hot before the game that Barbara Farquharson had to stop and take a break before heading to her seat.

"It's been unbearable, it's like coming home from Miami," she said. "Give me back that 50-degree weather we've had every night (in San Diego)."

Farquharson and her husband, Leonard, are the parents of Bucs receiver Charles Lee, a former UCF standout who was put on injured reserve two weeks ago with a foot injury.

Despite the unseasonably warm weather, Barbara said the trip has been memorable.

"It's been nice," she said. "The rivalry and listening to the yak-yak from all the different fans. And there were a lot of nice parties downtown. You name it, they (celebrities) were there."

There was one instance that caused a little flap for Lee's mother.

"I met Donovan McNabb and didn't recognize him," she said. "I said, "Do you play for the Bucs?' And he said, "Oohhh, no.' He told me who he was and I said, "I knew you were a quarterback. We beat you last week.' "

FAMILY TIES: It hasn't been the easiest week for Brenda Williams, but that's just fine with her.

Williams is a Bucs fans who lives in Los Angeles. Her son-in-law is Bucs cornerback Brian Kelly. Although she is clearly outnumbered by Raiders fans in California, Williams said she has held her own.

"It has been very interesting this week," Williams said as she stood outside Qualcomm Stadium wearing a shirt with a pirate flag emblazoned with rhinestones and the insignia.

"There are a lot of people who like the Bucs and I have a lot of friends who like the Bucs because of me."

PAY PARKING: In a parking lot near the stadium, a group of residents urged fans to park in their area using a sign that read: "Closest Parking to Da Stadium."

How much for that "close" parking?

Try $100.

No, it didn't include a piggyback ride to your seat.

PROUD COLORS: Fans in Bucs jerseys were nearly impossible to find last week in Philadelphia, but they were out in force at Qualcomm Stadium.

The most popular jersey, based on an informal survey of the first 100 seen in a lap around the stadium, was Mike Alstott's No. 40 (21 percent) followed by John Lynch's No. 47 (17 percent), Warren Sapp's No. 99 (14 percent) and Brad Johnson's No. 14 (13 percent).

That changes in the players' family section, where even the most obscure jerseys are bunched together. Tight end Todd Yoder had three fans wearing No. 80 jerseys, and it's not always as easy to find some jerseys.

Long-snapper Ryan Benjamin's brother, Doug, had to custom-order his from the NFL's Web site, which meant waiting six weeks after Benjamin signed with the team in October.

JAW DROPPER: The prices of merchandise all week were jaw dropping to most and even more so once inside the stadium.

With a new batch of clothes that previously weren't available, the first tent inside the stadium was doing brisk business despite high prices.

Sweat shirts for $73 and $85. Hats for $33. A polo shirt for $66. A khaki jacket with the Super Bowl logo on the left breast for $98. A car flag for $22.

Savvy shoppers unwilling to be gouged made the trek last week via trolley to the Fashion Valley and Mission Valley malls, where stores such as JCPenney sold Super Bowl merchandise at reduced prices. A white NFC championship T-shirt, which sold for $28 inside Qualcomm, went for $9.99. And gray T-shirts featuring the helmets of both teams were $16 (plus 30 percent off) compared with $28 at official merchandise booths.

The real, real savvy fans made friends in San Diego and left a wish list with them. Starting today or Tuesday, most of the merchandise will go on sale at 50-75 percent off.

WELL-TRAVELED: Six weeks might be too long of a wait in the come-and-go world of fringe NFL players. Courtney Gural wore a No. 79 Bucs jersey for her boyfriend, tackle Mitch White, who has been with five teams this season.

Gural still lives in New Orleans, where White started this season and watched from the sideline as the Saints beat the Bucs in the season opener. From there, he bounced to the practice squads of the Jets, Packers and Chiefs before signing with the Bucs practice squad three weeks ago.

One benefit of playing for five teams during one season is lots of connections for parties. Gural and White went to Saints tackle Kyle Turley's party and former Bucs kicker John Carney's charity benefit last week.

PAY ANYTHING: San Diego residents Adam Tepper and Steve Burkholder, who covered themselves in black and red body paint and donned red wigs in support of the Bucs, were so happy to be at the Super Bowl they didn't even mind paying $8 for a 12-ounce beer.

"It's the Super Bowl," said Tepper, a one-time St. Petersburg resident. "I'd give my kidney if that's what it cost."

A taste of other Super Bowl concessions: whole pizza ($20), super dog ($4), chili topping ($2), peanuts ($5), popcorn ($3), chilled wine ($4).

SECURITY CONCERNS: Security at Qualcomm Stadium was among the tightest for any Super Bowl.

In addition to a 7-mile-across no-fly zone for all aircraft except commercial, military and emergency aircraft, no individual parking was allowed at the stadium.

Fans entering the stadium were subject to frisking, walked through metal detectors and had any bags searched. At least two checkpoints were set up to enter both the corporate hospitality tent and NFL tailgate part areas.

Weapons, knives, explosives, fireworks, camcorders, umbrellas, strollers, beach balls, Frisbees, poles, sticks, laser lights and pointers, containers of any type, coolers, backpacks, bottles, cans, hair spray, camera and binocular cases, tripods, Mace/pepper spray, banners, noisemakers and horns were among the items not allowed.

RED FLAG: The Bucs could have been in a hole early after Aaron Stecker was ruled to have fumbled on the game's second kickoff. That would have given the Raiders, up 3-0, possession at the Bucs 32. The Bucs challenged the call, however, and Stecker was ruled down by contact. The Bucs then marched 68 yards in nine plays to set up Martin Gramatica's 31-yard field goal that tied it.

FLIPPED: Brad Johnson, Keenan McCardell, John Lynch, Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp and Jeff Christy were the captains for the coin flip. The Bucs won the toss when Oakland's Jerry Rice called heads and the coin came up tails. Seven members of the undefeated 1972 Dolphins were honorary captains.

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN: The game could have been a home game for the Raiders. Super Bowl XXXVII originally was awarded to San Francisco, a reward for the 1997 decision by the city to build a new stadium.

But financing for the stadium never materialized, and in 1999, the game was moved to San Diego. Oh, and NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue warned San Diego officials last week if they don't build a replacement for Qualcomm Stadium, this could be their last Super Bowl for a long time.

NOTHING SPECIAL: It's good for the Bucs they had a big lead because thanks to a couple of special teams mistakes, they gave up points then left more on the field.

Up 34-9, the Bucs had their first punt of the season blocked by Tim Johnson, and Eric Johnson returned it for a touchdown. The Bucs followed by driving to the Raiders 18. But Tom Tupa dropped the snap on Gramatica's field goal with 9: 02 left. YOU PICK THREE: Tampa Bay's three interceptions returned for scores not only set a Super Bowl record, it matched the total from the previous 18 Super Bowls combined. No Super Bowl team had ever returned more than one interception for a score, and only six had managed a touchdown.

ONE HALF IS ENOUGH: In its three playoff games this season, Tampa Bay's offense has scored 65 points in the first half (45 in the second quarter) but just 16 after halftime. The defense has made up for it, scoring 21 of their 28 points during the second half.

INACTIVES: Tampa Bay's inactive players were cornerback Tim Wansley, tight end Dan Wilcox, linebacker Justin Smith, offensive tackle Dan Goodspeed, receiver Reggie Barlow, tight end Casey Crawford and defensive end Buck Gurley. Shaun King was the third quarterback.

DID YOU NOTICE: Gramatica picked up where he left off last week on kickoffs, kicking low squibs rather than risk long runbacks (as happened twice against the Eagles). ... The NFL painted its logo onto the nets behind the goal posts. ... Raymond James Stadium regulars would have recognized the pregame routine. The Bucs brought their trademark our-ship-sinks-your-ship video for the pregame cheerleader routine.

DID YOU KNOW: There have been 17 100-yard rushers in the Super Bowl. ... Paul Olden, a Devil Rays' radio broadcasters, was the public address announcer.

-- GREG AUMAN, JOHN C. COTEY, ANTONYA ENGLISH, KEVIN KELLY, JACK SHEPPARD, MARC TOPKIN

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.