Warren Sapp, Robert Ayers And Tone-Setting

August 19th, 2016


Preseason football and practicing against other teams?

That was very serious business for legendary No. 99, and eye-RAH! Kaufman sees an old tradition returning.


No team ever won the Super Bowl during a summer scrimmage, but it can be a heck of a start.

Just ask Warren Sapp.

The two-time all-decade defensive tackle joined the Bucs in 1995 as a first-round draft pick out of the University of Miami, where he majored in winning and earned straight A’s in the art of intimidation.

Those lessons served him well in a Hall of Fame career and when Sapp turned pro, he brought his nasty disposition to a franchise that played nice all too often. Sapp oozed confidence as a rookie and his Hurricane pedigree showed when the Bucs and Dolphins met for scrimmages.

While his teammates were pushed all over the field, Sapp wasted no time letting Don Shula’s players know that big changes were on the horizon.

“I didn’t give a damn,” Sapp said, looking back at his early tone-setting days in Tampa. “It wasn’t happening no more — not on my watch.”

When the Bucs and Jaguars met for two days of practice in Jacksonville this week in anticipation of Saturday night’s exhibition game, it was important that Tampa Bay players asserted themselves on both sides of the ball.

When Sapp was pushed in 1995, he pushed back … harder.

Bucs Find Their Nasty

Two years later, the rest of his teammates joined him for a coming-out party that triggered a long run of defensive excellence, culminating in a Super Bowl rout of the Raiders.

These Bucs need that kind of wake-up call. Five consecutive years in the NFC South basement has tested the patience of a loyal fan base desperate for a glimmer of hope.

Enter Robert Ayers, from stage left.

ayersjaxComing off a career year with the Giants, the free agent defensive end will turn 31 before the season opener at Atlanta. While New York wanted to get younger up front, the Bucs wanted to get meaner.

“What we didn’t know about Robert is what a good leader and good tempo-setter he is,” says Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter.

Asked what Ayers brings to the organization, quarterback Jameis Winston didn’t have to think twice:


Sapp was a one-of-a-kind presence, skipping through the opposition’s stretches before games just to let everybody know who was boss. He never let up, practicing with the same aggressive approach he displayed on game day.

Ayers can play a critical role here in Tampa, one that has been vacant far too long.

“I do feel like I’m a naturally pissed-off person and sometimes things happen and fights break out,” Ayers says. “I’ve never been part of a team where there aren’t fights and there aren’t guys going at each other’s neck, but it’s a nature of the beast.”

The only skirmish of note during Thursday’s scrimmage was a harmless tussle between Ali Marpet and Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., who missed his entire rookie year with a knee injury. Fowler is trying to make up for lost time, but Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley kicked him out of practice for stepping over the line.

“You want to play at a frenzy,” Bradley said. “It’s finding that place where you’re playing at a high level, high intensity, but within the rules.”

Sapp made his own rules and my guess is Bradley really didn’t mind Fowler’s macho posturing.

Ayers is a Buc because he is talented and he plays at a frenzy. In the immortal words of former Tampa Bay assistant coach Joe Barry, he plays, “Like his hair is on fire.”

If these two scrimmages proved the Bucs aren’t going to play nice anymore, then they were well worth it. Look for more intensity from Mr. Ayers on Saturday evening, his next opportunity to evoke the spirit of No. 99.

7 Responses to “Warren Sapp, Robert Ayers And Tone-Setting”

  1. Cobraboy Says:

    It’s about damn time.

  2. Harry in Costa Rica Says:

    Another great job Eye-Rah. Love this stuff. I am hoping all of these improvements generate great success for the front and back end of the D. How awesome would that be?!!

  3. tmaxcon Says:

    Finally some heart and passion on this team. I love the young guys getting to see Ayers versus the example set by mccoy previously which was simply its ok to lose just smile and have fun. Obviously that has not worked. Attitude and intimidation can go a long way.

  4. Buccfan37 Says:

    Sapp was special, sure do miss that level of intensity and in your face toughness with the Bucs. Maybe not the nicest guy off the field either, that didn’t matter to me. Ayers and this defense show signs of nastiness and like Sapp are sick of the losing. That’s exciting in itself. Nice article to build the frenzy like what is now the old school Bucs stifling defense. History repeats itself, like Sapp the Bucs aren’t going to take the losing anymore.

  5. Mike Johnson Says:

    I want to see it in a regular season game. In fact..in many games. Our defense has been pushed, shoved, manhandled and outplayed consistently over the last few yrs. Its been outright sad. Sapp use to tell the offense, Give us 10 pts. Lately its been, our defense cannot get off the field. We shall see how much this defense has improved. One thing bout the NFl, there is no hiding. You will get exposed if you are not ready.

  6. Pickgrin Says:

    So far, the Ayers signing appears to be exactly what was needed to provide a spark for the DLine. And that was further reinforced by the drafting of Noah Spence.

    The Dline already had some talent which has been largely underachieving, so bringing in Jay Hayes will hopefully uplift this whole group and inspire the DLine to greatness.

    It all starts up front.

  7. Nole on Sat.-Bucc on Sun. Says: