By ROGER MILLS
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 29, 2001
TAMPA -- He's still Big Daddy, but just a bit lighter.
Twenty-seven pounds, to be exact.
Defensive tackle Warren Sapp, the driving force of Tampa Bay's strong defense, didn't just shed a few pounds before minicamp, he lost an entire 2-year-old. Sapp played at 330 pounds last season.
"I played 1,010 plays last year at 330 pounds, nobody said I could do it, and I put up 161/2 sacks," Sapp said. "I just cut off 27 pounds and we're going to see what we've got.
"I don't know, wherever (the weight) goes, it goes. ... We're in Florida, I can't do anything but come out here and prepare myself for the best season I could possibly have and wherever (the points) go, they go."
Sapp said he's probably most effective around 290 pounds and plans to work toward that goal.
Coach Tony Dungy said he's aware of Sapp's weight loss but said the All-Pro tackle had a good 2000 season at 330 pounds.
"I just think that Warren's a unique player in the league," Dungy said. "He's been the defensive player of the year, he's been a Pro Bowl player. When he's on top of his game, he can be the best defensive player in the league.
"So, to be successful and get where we want to go, I think he understands (what's needed). He and I talk usually at the beginning of every year and we set goals, individual and team goals, and we haven't had that talk yet. But he had 16 1/2 sacks last year and it's going to have to be higher."
SIMEON SAYS: Defensive end Simeon Rice seems to have fit in with his new teammates almost immediately. And coming from the Arizona Cardinals, he also seems to be enjoying the weather.
"It was a nice stay, in the Sunshine State, you couldn't ask for better," Rice said. "This time in Arizona it's 110 degrees. It's definitely something I expect to grow into. It's definitely a euphoric situation."
For the second straight day, Rice opened the scrimmages matched up against rookie left tackle Kenyatta Walker. It should prove an interesting matchup all the way through the end of training camp.
"I think he's going to learn but I think I definitely can help him just going against him every day in practice," Rice said. "I'm going to show him different looks and he's going to evolve because he's a pretty good player. They drafted a really good player, they see something in him."
STARTING AT SAFETY: Big things are happening for third-year safety Dexter Jackson. With Damien Robinson signing with the Jets, Jackson entered minicamp as the starter for the first time and said he feels a little different.
"Your goal every year is to come in and be able to compete for the No. 1 spot," Jackson said Friday. "But this year, with Damien going to the Jets, my opportunity has come up and I just want to come out and show that I'm capable of holding down the position and helping the team win."
Last season, Robinson started all 16 regular-season games and the playoff game. Jackson finished with 30 tackles.
"I see it as a reward for hard work and dedication," Jackson said. "That's why you put in the work and sweat, take the bruises, to be No. 1, and it's paying off now. My job now, since I have it, is to try to keep it."
THE RIGHT APPROACH: Veteran Pete Pierson, who lost his starting position to Walker, was his usual upbeat self and said he plans to offer every ounce of support he can to the rookie.
"I think he has to know that I'm not bitter toward him for what happened," Pierson said. "I know how hard it is. It's a tough position to start off as a rookie. He's got a lot of stuff he has to learn in a short period of time. We all have to help him. The more we can help him along, the better off all of us will be."
After starting 15 games last season and platooning with George Hegamin, Pierson said the bright side is the Bucs have depth at tackle.
"I don't see any other way you can approach it," Pierson said. "Anything other than that is not beneficial to the team. I've been a backup for a long time and if that's what they want me to do back there, I know the role. I'm going to be supportive ... and just be ready because there's just no telling what can happen."
BUCS BITS: Linebacker Jeff Gooch (pelvic bone) and safety John Lynch (shoulder) sat out practice as a precautionary measure. Cornerback Brian Kelly did not practice after having arthroscopic knee surgery Friday. Tight end Todd Yoder (dehydration) left the field during the afternoon practice. Receiver Khori Ivy (hip flexor) sat out the afternoon session.