Warren Sapp In The Trenches Of A New Battle

May 3rd, 2023

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Warren Sapp earned a hefty paycheck and his invitation to the Pro Football Hall of Fame by hunting quarterbacks.

He delivered hits and mayhem on football fields all over the Sunshine State, but a dark shadow is creeping into his life.

Warren Sapp

At the age of 50, the Buccaneer icon is thinking about his legacy and the price he paid along the way. That’s why Sapp became involved in a film that just won the Best Short Documentary award at last week’s Sunscreen Film Festival in St. Petersburg.

“Life With CTE: A Warren Sapp Story,” chronicles his efforts to generate more awareness about chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurological disease linked to repeated hits to the head.

“CTE is one of the only brain diseases that is entirely preventable,” says Chris Nowinski, a former football player at Harvard who entered pro wrestling before gaining a Ph.D in behavioral neuroscience. “You’re not born with it and you’re not going to get it unless you’re hit in the head hundreds of thousands of times.”

A jarring incident while driving in Miami led Sapp to do more research into CTE. He was cruising down Biscayne Boulevard to visit a friend when he couldn’t remember how to get to an office he had been to many times.

“That’s a very scary and helpless feeling,” Sapp says in the 15-minute documentary, directed by Mike Mentor. Sapp makes an emotional plea for parents to delay their child’s participation in contact football.

“I just wanted to share the knowledge that we shouldn’t be putting our sons and nephews out there at 8, 9 10 or 11 years old, playing Pop Warner football,” Sapp says. “Me and Jim Brown don’t talk about Pop Warner football when we go to the Hall of Fame. Me and Joe Greene don’t talk about Pop Warner football. I don’t talk about Pop Warner football with no Hall of Famers. We talk high school, we talk college, yeah, because that’s where you become who you are.”

CTE cannot be diagnosed until after death and Sapp has pledged to donate his brain to science. Steelers center Mike Webster was the first NFL player diagnosed with CTE, three years after his death in 2002.

“We know the longer you play, the worse off you are,” Nowinski says. Sapp says there’s no reason to rush children onto the field.

“Now we know there’s a 20-year window and you want to move that window,” he says. “That’s why we’ve got to educate the moms. There’s a lot of single moms out here on a Saturday on the Pop Warner fields, guaranteed. If we can get these young men to play chess or other non-contact sports until high school, we’d be better off.”

The documentary has been making the rounds of film festivals. It’s Sapp’s way of giving back to the game he loves.

“I’m gonna leave a bust in Canton you can visit,” he says. “I’m gonna leave my tape and also my brain so we can understand what 19 years of football did. That’s how we make the game better.”

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29 Responses to “Warren Sapp In The Trenches Of A New Battle”

  1. stpetebucfan Says:

    Certainly feel sorry for Sapp. Good luck. Sadly no treatment for CTE either.

    I agree with his observations. I remember reading some research that showed that it’s not necessarily the giant hit that cold cocks a guy leaving him unconscious. A lot of research now indicates that it’s the repeated hits, none necessarily individually alarming, and so linemen whose helmets collide on most snaps who are at the biggest risk. But hard hitting tacklers like Scot Brantley who initiate thousands of big hits are also at risk.

  2. ModHairKen Says:

    That is courageous. I have a new found respect for him.

  3. ben Says:

    In my humble opinion he was the best Bucs player ever picked in the draft. He would walk thru the other teams huddle b4 the came to give notice this was his field .. Most of the time he was right .. a real bad ass !

  4. Hodad Says:

    Is Sapp blaming CTE for short changing a hooker? Maybe he has it, maybe he don’t, but Sapp has always been an A hole. Seems easy blamming his late life failures on CTE.

  5. Brandon Says:

    I’m not quite as old as Sapp but I sometimes forget easy to remember things that have been second nature to me…. sometimes I walk into a room and forget why I went in there…. that’s normal, not just at 50 but at any age. I’m not saying Sapp doesn’t have CTE and he may very well have it, but there is a certain amount of everyday brain farts and forgetfulness that those of us that don’t have CTE (I’m guessing I don’t) could blame it on if we played football for 20 years. Plus, as people age, memory and cognitive function decline. It’s natural. I’d be more worried about CTE and how it relates to depression, anger, and dangerous decision making.

  6. KYBUCFAN Says:

    Hodad its ppl like you that make society these days sooo f*cked up… Who are you to judge?? Oh my bad you the one and only who’s every done everything right so i guess that gives you the right to cast the 1st stone! You will NEVER know what the circumstances are surrounding Anything that man has done, so how can you possibly even speak on it…

  7. Who Says Says Can't Say Says:

    It’s a serious flaw in this wonderful game.

  8. Oxycondoms Says:

    Its never the marijuana

  9. Dewey Selmon Says:

    I forget a lot, it’s the weed lol

  10. 727bucsfan Says:

    sapp will say anything to get his name in a headline

  11. rrsrq Says:

    What he is saying the things that were normally muscle memory, he is not talking about just something that distracted you and you forgot what you came to do, like losing your car keys, etc

  12. Steven007 Says:

    Hodad, maybe we read different articles. But I do not not see one place where he blamed his past infractions on CTE. He merely spoke of not remembering how to get somewhere he knew very well and how scary that was. No one doubts Sapp was an a-hole. But let’s not change the narrative.

  13. stpetebucfan Says:

    @Brandon, Dewey and Oxy

    I’m 75 and yes short term memory does deteorate with age, a well known fact.

    As for the weed…I feel great but I no longer dance with Mary Jane as frequently as I used to. Have to do stuff like swim, walk, lift weights and fortunately it fills the time I used to share with my girlfriend MJ.

    Bottom line…IMHO all things in moderation.

  14. Mike Johnson Says:

    And now you know why Ballers are handsomely paid. I have an old HS friend (won’t mention his name) Who played DB for the Jets for many yrs. He went to the Uni of Miami and played HS ball in Northern Fl. He is about 60 now. When I went to visit him last year, not only could he barely walk, But he kept hitting his head trying to remember things. HE could only remember about 25% of them. He told me his mind was..playing tricks with him. But I knew…..

  15. 1sparkybuc Says:

    I don’t believe Sapp is trying to use CTE as an excuse for being an A-hole. He knows that he was an A-hole long before concussions had any effect on his behavior. Odds are that Sapp is still an A-hole, but the bottom line is, we don’t even get to a SB, forget about winning one, without him. The first thing any team playing the Bucs had to do, was plan how to deal with Sapp.
    I loved the team that coach Dungy and (the HC after coach Dungy, I can’t recall his name at the moment) put together to win that SB. I’m old and have memory issues, but I’ll never forget what they did to the Fleagles the week before. Thank you HOFer Ronde Barber. That team was infested with nice guys and one A-hole. Thank fictional heavenly being for that A-hole. We all need one.

  16. SufferingSince76 Says:

    Wow. Some pretty heartless posts. So glad our future is in some of your hands.

  17. Frank Pillow Says:

    Say what you will about Sapp’s off the field conduct, but don’t be too quick to discount the impact and toll the game takes on players. Also, let’s not forget what this franchise was like before he arrived—it was football Siberia. The place careers went to die. With Nickerson’s foundation, Sapp and his partner Brooks helped transform a franchise and dare I say a city. He is the most intimidating disruptive and dominant player this team as ever had—and was a joy to watch on Sundays. He is a Buccaneer legend.

  18. MadMax Says:

    I still love Sapp, he was one of the reasons I became a Buc fan, but the year after he was drafted. I saw what was going on with him, Brooks and Lynch, Barber, Rice and just felt something good going on here. Sapp and I are the same age, but I was just starting to become a true fan of Tampa, but living in the Carolinas surrounded by Panther fans lol.

    I still wear his jersey sometimes during games and I hope he makes it through the “growing older” parts….and I hope its not CTE but they cant clarify until after the brain is out, even though we’re getting there with greats like him coming forward and showing what could be early diagnosis signs.

    He’s a dog…I still love the guy…Im an a hole too especially as I get older, just hate dealing with people most of the time…but he’s still a dog and I love his legacy statement!

  19. 1sparkybuc Says:

    ****Gruden, and come to think of it, Gruden was an A-hole too, and a liar. He told Sapp he would be coming back, and then he wasn’t. Sapp had 10 sacks as Raider DT in a single season. Sapp should never have been anything but a Buccaneer.

  20. MadMax Says:

    ^agreed sparky!!

  21. Since76 Says:

    If he has it that’s terrible. But he is the wrong person to put up as a front for any cause. The man was great on the field but off of it he was not.

  22. Ben the GA Buc Says:

    My 11 year old son is begging me to play football. I’ve been resistant so far. This article gives me another arrow in my quiver to argue in favor of him waiting longer. Thanks, Ira.

  23. RunRunPassRay Says:

    Very eloquent of Sapp,certainly not like the rude and quite honestly racist Sapp I’ve encountered when he was playing. I’m glad maturity and humility have found him

  24. Mr. Editor Says:

    Mr. Sapp is one of my all time favorite Buccaneers. His heart is in the right place. Other than the “moms”, however, it’s going to be hard to convince some boys to choose chess over football.

  25. optimisticbucsfan Says:

    It is a shame that the message gets blurred by the messenger.

    The message is the same whether it is Sapp or Simeon or Brooks.

  26. FortMyersDave Says:

    Sapp was on of the all time great Bucs despite some of his shortcomings off of the field. CTE is no joke. Just look at guys who about 10 to 15 years older than Sapp like Scot Brantley. The former Buc was on HBO “Real Sports” before the pandemic and when asked his age, he said “50”. He was actually 60. Scot was on the show because he is one of many ex NFL players who are being denied benefits from the NFL concussion settlement because he was employed at a Gainesville radio station when he applied (albeit, it was part-time and Brantley already was diagnosed with CTE as well as suffering from 2 strokes which have left him blind in one eye).

    One has to feel bad for Brantley, man he used to have some great radio shows on the Tampa airwaves on 820, WFNS, WQYK and WHBO with Ronnie Lane, Steve Duemig, The Sports Babe and Rob Weingarten, all awesome shows. Definitely the golden age of sports talk in Tampa.

  27. Just Saying Says:

    I always hate seeing players get smacked on the head a thousand times after a good play too. Hit their shoulder pads instead.

  28. garro Says:

    Some critical thinking and life experience has me temped to call BS on Sapp. If they want a poster boy for CTS they need to find a better face.

    I had a Medical Doctor (and family friend) warn me about the dangers of playing football 40years before CTE was a thing. Yeah Doctors know about what happens to people who play contact sports and have for a very long time. I played anyway. My body today lets me know daily what I did to it. I have no regrets.
    Sports is something I decided to do after being informed of the risk. I am not a victim. I am a volunteer.
    Now after saying that… the NFL is not responsible for CTE but they do need to step up and help the ex players more than they have! The owners, Networks and the NFL players themselves are making a ton of money and some of it needs to go to those who need help. In a real way not the pittance that is being doled out now.

  29. Since76 Says:

    So everyone knows you can get hurt on any given down. As a pro you know the dangers. It’s a tragedy to come down with this. But they volunteered for the game. If a fireman, police, or soldier is killed or seriously injured it’s part of the possibilities of their careers. Pro football players are compensated way way way more than any of the others. Most of would have loved to be good enough to do what they did. I know I would of. Dangers and all.