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Value of playoff experience debated

Young Eagles think Bucs may have an advantage. Bucs say playing well is the only thing that matters.

By ROGER MILLS

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 29, 2000


TAMPA -- A few years ago when the Buccaneers made the playoffs, the bulk of their players got their first taste of post-season football.

Sunday, it will be the Eagles' turn.

Of the 53 players on Philadelphia's roster, 34 are new to the post-season. Of those with experience, seven (Troy Vincent, Mike Mamula, Bobby Taylor, Hollis Thomas, Brian Dawkins, Jermane Mayberry and Bubba Miller) were on the Eagles roster in 1996 when the team last made the playoffs.

Significant? Depends on whom you ask.

In Philadelphia, the talk is that playoff experience can be very helpful.

"I think it helps (the Bucs) to have been there," coach Andy Reid said. "About half of our starters have been to some form of the playoffs. But it definitely helps. (The Bucs) have been through that, and they know what to expect as a team."

To help ease anxiety, Reid has asked his veteran players to help the younger players, such as starting quarterback Donovan McNabb, make a smooth transition.

"I think that is very important," Reid said. "They talk to the young players, and then they lead by example by carrying themselves properly. Very simply, that's just doing what got them there. Don't change your routine because you're in the playoffs."

Some Eagles have taken an almost cavalier approach.

"It's good we don't know about the playoffs," tight end Luther Broughton told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "It doesn't matter. We have a lot of guys who haven't been there. Maybe that means we don't know about it, so we don't feel that pressure."

The Bucs have a different perspective.

They don't they believe they have an advantage. Having the upper hand because you have more post-season experience than your opponent is a myth, some players said Thursday.

"I think playoff experience and cold weather are about the same advantage. It doesn't play any part," defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. "Whoever comes out and makes the least mistakes and plays the best will win the game. It doesn't matter if you've never played in a playoff game or if you've played 150 of them, it really doesn't matter. It's all about that day, that game, that 60 minutes. That's what we're focused on."

The stakes are higher in the playoffs and that's an adjustment all the players must make, coach Tony Dungy said. There is no room for mistakes, and there is no time to correct any that are made. "In the playoff game, you pretty much know that you've got that day to get the job done or you pretty much go home," Dungy said. "So you understand the urgency and all the ramifications that go with it. Usually, in the regular season you're intense but you know that you've got another week, no matter what. In the playoffs it's a little different.

"So, you need guys who can function well under pressure."

Dungy pointed out that neither the bulk of the Rams and the Titans had been to the playoffs before last season's charge to the Super Bowl.

"I think people can look at all kind of outside factors, who's been in the playoffs before and things that don't really matter," Dungy said. "What will be (important) is how well we play and how well they play on Sunday. "I think every year is different, every team is different. Every year you go in with the same goals and aspirations. The Rams didn't have playoff experience last year, and they went to the Super Bowl. If you've got a good team, I think it's the biggest thing."

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