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Sapp seethes about NFL's $50,000 fine

By RICK STROUD
Published October 15, 2003

TAMPA - Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp drew a costly penalty from the NFL Tuesday.

The league fined Sapp $50,000 for repeated abusive conduct toward officials and threatened to suspend him if his behavior doesn't improve.

NFL director of game operations Peter Hadhazy issued the fine after a review of three incidents this season involving Sapp and game officials. In a tersely worded letter to Sapp released by the league, Hadhazy said further misconduct will result in a suspension of at least one game.

Sapp said Tuesday night the league is trying to make an example of him.

"That's all this is about," Sapp told the Associated Press. "In my nine years in this league, no one's been fined for verbally abusing officials. It's unprecedented."

Sapp bumped a game official at FedEx Field before Sunday's game against the Redskins. The league and the Bucs had warned Sapp about his conduct. "There was absolutely no need for you to do so," Hadhazy stated in a letter to Sapp. "To the contrary, it is apparent that you deliberately made contact with the official. ... This misconduct occurred even though you had been strongly advised by the Buccaneers' management only days before to refrain from taking actions during the pregame warmups that were disruptive to your opponents, disrespectful to the game officials, and in violation of league rules regarding unsportsmanlike conduct."

After learning of the fine, Sapp said the contact Sunday was incidental. Tuesday on his weekly radio show, Warren's World, on WQYK-AM 1010, Sapp took issue with how the league could fine him a lump sum three weeks after some of the alleged infractions.

"I didn't do anything to this man," Sapp said of the bump. "This man knew he turned back into me. It was just incidental contact to where I was going, and all of a sudden, I'm right there and he's right there. ... Our paths just crossed at the same time."

According to the league Sapp used abusive language to officials in two games this season.

Before the Oct. 6 game against Indianapolis, Sapp ran among the Colts during their stretching routine. Two days later, linebacker LaVar Arrington threatened to retaliate against Sapp if he disrupted the Redskins' warmup routine. The league sent letters to both teams warning that any pregame disruption or altercation would result in a 15-yard penalty to be assessed on the kickoff and/or ejection.

The Bucs were not penalized Sunday after Sapp bumped the official. However, Sapp was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct Sept. 14 against Carolina for verbal abuse of an official.

"Your continuing disrespectful and intimidating conduct has no place in the game," Hadhazy wrote.

Sapp said he wants to see the official's report from the Carolina game. He questioned why a penalty was not called on the Panthers after a running play involving fullback Mike Alstott.

"The first one is just so absurd," Sapp said. "You can clearly see the dude lift Mike up by the facemask on the TV. It's unbelievable. You don't want to fine me on that one. How do you break it down if only one of them is fineable? Neither one of them has a pricetag, it's just all lumped up into one."

Sapp also disputed the league's claim that he was verbally abusive to officials during or after the game against the Colts.

"I never said anything to the man," Sapp said. "That's all I want to see is the report because you have to write the report. ... You've got to lay the evidence on the table, right? It ought to be good, because he has to make it up. I know I never said one word to him."

Sapp says the fine will not be a distraction before Sunday's game at San Francisco.

"I'll fly to San Francisco on Friday and get ready to play football," Sapp said. "You can't worry about things you can't control."

Bucs add fullback

TAMPA - The Bucs signed fullback Cecil Martin to a one-year contract.

Terms were not released.

Martin, a fifth-year pro, was a fourth-round pick of the Eagles in 1999. The 6-foot, 230-pounder started 40 games with 107 yards on 25 rushes and 365 on 66 catches. He also played special teams.

Martin was in training camp with the Raiders this season, but was released in August.

To make room on the 53-man roster, linebacker Justin Smith was released. Smith was signed to and running back Travis Stephens released from the practice squad.

- Staff writer Joanne Korth contributed to this report.

[Last modified October 15, 2003, 01:33:50]

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