Warren Sapp sat in the office of Bucs assistant head coach Rod Marinelli last month and watched tapes of the latest batch of college defensive line prospects. They do it together every year.
"You've got to see this kid," Marinelli gushed to Sapp.
Sapp didn't know anything about the player about to pop up on the screen.
"He was a bowling ball," Sapp said yesterday from Orlando. "Everything was flying. He was a bowling ball with a butcher knife. Everything was cut up and killed. That's what he looked like. Helmets were flying."
They were studying six cutup tapes of Kentucky defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson.
In his unique way, the original Sapp, a future Hall of Famer, immediately gave his approval to the Jets' No. 1 pick, a player he since learned is being touted as the next Warren Sapp. "He stood out like a turd in a punch bowl," he said.
Eight years ago, the Jets passed on Sapp. Now, they get the new Sapp. "They always say I'm the prototype," Sapp said. "I laugh at it. Eight years later, I'm still the prototype."
Something finally worked in Jets GM Terry Bradway's awful offseason adventure. He traded his Nos. 13 and 22 picks on Friday to Chicago for the fourth pick and then sweated it out, praying Robertson would make it to No. 4. The Jets were sufficiently scared the Lions would deal their pick at No. 2 to the Cowboys, Patriots or perhaps the Saints, who all would have taken Robertson, that Bradway, too, went after Detroit's pick yesterday.
The Lions stayed put and took Charles Rogers, then the Texans took Andre Johnson, and that huge sigh of relief that blew out the windows at Weeb Ewbank Hall apparently came from Bradway's office. Robertson was the No. 1 target in the tradeup and if he was gone, it was just another mistake on Bradway's resume.
Sapp never saw Robertson play on television. "SEC football, especially watching Kentucky, wasn't on the menu," he said. "Kentucky only comes up on the blue plate special."
But Sapp knows enough about him now through his eyes and Marinelli's. "Rod really likes talent and this kid has got it," Sapp said.
Sapp is listed at 6-2, 303. Robertson is listed at 6-1-3/8, 317. Physically, they look very similar. "That means he's a short, fat guy," Sapp said laughing. "There is nothing wrong with being a short, fat guy."
He knows how important the position is in the Bucs defense, which Herm Edwards now has a better chance to run more effectively with a big run stuffer who can also get to the quarterback. Robertson had just five sacks last season, but also had 48 tackles and 13 QB pressures.
Watching Robertson get double-teamed made his performance even more impressive to Sapp. The first thing Edwards asked Robertson on the phone at draft headquarters after picking him was whether he was ready to get to the quarterback. Robertson assured him he was.
There can be a burden drawing Sapp comparisons. It's plenty to live up to. "It can be a heavy load," Sapp admitted.
First, he must prepare for the step up in competition. "He has to be able to adjust to the hand fighting. He's never been grabbed like he's going to be grabbed in the first three preseason games," Sapp said. "He will look in the mirror and say, 'Am I as good as I think?' I know he has a good coach in Herman and is surrounded by good players."
Sapp says Robertson "has to be" disruptive. "That's the key to that defense," he said. "If you've got an 'under' tackle in the mold of Warren Sapp, or he even reminds you of him, he's playing well then. Tony Dungy put it on me: You must be the guy. I looked at it as a challenge. He will do the same thing for Herm. There is nothing like walking in and they say you are going to be our guy."
Will there ever be a new Sapp?
"We have one at the house," Sapp said. "He's 3 years old."