Len Pasquarelli

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Sunday, November 24
Sherman angered by Sapp hit, celebration

By Len Pasquarelli

TAMPA, Fla. -- The longstanding feud between former divisional rivals Tampa Bay and Green Bay ratcheted up from ugly to grotesque Sunday when Packers head coach Mike Sherman and Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp engaged in a heated and occasionally obscenity-laced argument a few seconds after the game ended.
Warren Sapp
Bucs star Warren Sapp, left, had to be restrained during his verbal altercation with Packers head coach Mike Sherman, right.

The object of Sherman's ire, which led him to confront Sapp on the Tampa Bay sideline after congratulating other Tampa Bay players: His displeasure with Sapp's hit on Chad Clifton during an interception return by cornerback Brian Kelly in the third quarter, and with the celebration by Sapp while the Green Bay offensive tackle lay motionless on the field.

There was no penalty on the play.

"He's a great player but I just don't think there's any place for that," said Sherman, who took an unusually long time to emerge from the locker room for his session with the media. "Maybe it wasn't a (cheap) play and maybe I just overreacted … but I didn't think it was appropriate."

Sapp responded afterward by suggesting Sherman cursed at him and then termed the Packers coach "a lying, (manure)-eating hound. … If I was 25 years old and didn't have a kid and a conscience, I would have given him an ass-kicking right there at the 30-yard line."

The play in question occurred with 7:33 remaining in the third quarter, when Favre tried to connect with wide receiver Terry Glenn on a post pattern. The Tampa Bay secondary had the pattern double-covered, with strong safety John Lynch deep, and Kelly made a fairly easy interception.

Near the end of his 31-yard return, which set up a four-yard touchdown grab by wide receiver Joe Jurevicius and nudged the Bucs into a 14-7 lead, Sapp clearly launched himself into Clifton. The Green Bay starting left tackle then crumpled to the ground, lay there for several minutes, was finally strapped to a back board and taken from the field.

If I was 25 years old and didn't have a kid and a conscience, I would have given him an ass-kicking right there at the 30-yard line.
Bucs DT Warren Sapp, on his confrontation with Packers coach Mike Sherman
Clifton lost feeling in his extremities for a short period and, while he was on the ground, Sapp was shown on the in-stadium video screens celebrating. It was apparently that celebration which most bothered Sherman and some of the Green Bay players. Clifton was able to move his arms and legs as he left the field.

Sapp did not deny that he hunted Clifton out on the play.

"Yeah, I was a heat-seeking missile," Sapp said. "Boom. Boom. Boom. And I hit him."

Packers officials announced that Clifton suffered a hip injury and Sherman said he would remain in a local hospital overnight while the club's medical staff "investigated some other (physical) things, too."

Most of the players and coaches from both teams, and much of the media which had assembled on the field for the last few minutes of the game, were unaware of the Sherman-Sapp incident. During the incident, an unidentified Packers staffer was shoved by Sapp, then functionaries from both franchises stepped into the fray.

At one point in the shouting match, Sapp screamed at Sherman: "If you think you're so tough, why don't you put on a uniform?"

Sherman was shaken by the incident, but appeared to have calmed down by the time he addressed the media. "It bothers me," he said. "And I think the game of football … well, it should bother the game of football as well."

The confrontation is certain to draw the scrutiny of league officials and both Sherman and Sapp could be subject to NFL discipline.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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Mike Sherman and Warren Sapp react to their post-game shouting match.
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