- The Washington Times - Monday, January 27, 2003

From staff and wire reports
SAN DIEGO All-Pro center Barret Robbins was hospitalized yesterday, hours after the Oakland Raiders sent him home from the Super Bowl for an unauthorized absence from the team, football sources told the Associated Press.
Two sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Robbins was expected to spend the night in a hospital after he left the team for nearly 24 hours during the weekend.
Robbins missed the Raiders' curfew Friday, then didn't turn up at the team hotel until early Saturday night. Four Raiders sources, all speaking on condition of anonymity, said Robbins missed scheduled team events on Saturday, and turned up only shortly before their final evening meeting.
"He's been sent home," Raiders spokesman Craig Long said.
Robbins, who had what the team called a "chemical imbalance" during the 1996 season, was hospitalized in the San Diego area yesterday, the sources close to Robbins said.
The Raiders declared Robbins inactive one hour before the game.
Several Raiders claimed they weren't bothered by Robbins' absence. Owner Al Davis said, "Let's play the game," while linebacker Bill Romanowski said, "It really isn't" a distraction.
Robbins was replaced by Adam Treu, the Raiders' long snapper and an experienced veteran. Treu started 14 games at center last season when Robbins was out with a right knee injury.
Robbins clearly was missed against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' top-ranked defense and dominant line. Oakland accumulated only 62 first-half yards, and quarterback Rich Gannon was sacked three times as the Bucs took a 20-3 halftime lead and rolled from there.
After the game, several other players declined comment, while coach Bill Callahan wouldn't discuss specifics.
"If somebody chooses to do something wrong, nobody can tell them what to do," guard Frank Middleton said. "We have to go with the guys who want to be here. … My concern is not B-Robb. He's safe, and he paid the price for what he did. I haven't talked to him, and I don't know if I'm going to talk to him."
Robbins' teammates had known he wouldn't play since Saturday afternoon, shortly before he missed their final team meeting.
"There was no distraction, because I eliminated it," Callahan insisted. "Where he's at, and what's transpired since [Saturday], I can't say."
Oakland's offensive line, renowned for its pass-blocking ability, was considered one of the keys to its top-ranked offense. Robbins and right tackle Lincoln Kennedy were two of Oakland's five Pro Bowl players.
Robbins was questionable, anyway, with a foot injury, but the Raiders' athletic center was expected to help contain Tampa Bay's formidable defensive front, led by All-Pro tackle Warren Sapp.
The center broke into the Raiders' starting lineup in 1996, but he missed two games late in that season for reasons that never have been clearly outlined. The team later said Robbins had an imbalance that had been corrected.
Top jersey
Michael Pittman has a collection of more than 100 authentic game jerseys, including Walter Payton's No. 34, Ozzie Smith's No. 1 and Johnny Unitas' No. 19.
After last night's Super Bowl, somebody is going to be pursuing Pittman's No. 32.
Signed as an unrestricted free agent before this season to replace Warrick Dunn, who left the Bucs to sign with the Atlanta Falcons, Pittman had been a rather ordinary running back until the Super Bowl. His 124 yards on 29 carries helped Tampa Bay to a victory over Oakland.
"The offensive line blocked great for me. I just ran through the holes," Pittman, a native of San Diego, said. "I just kept pounding and pounding and the running yards came."
Pittman came to the Bucs last March, a month after Jon Gruden took over as coach and was promptly named a starter.
He spent the first four years of his career with the Arizona Cardinals and ran for 100 yards in his first NFL start.
"It's a dream come true. That's the reason I left Arizona, because I didn't think we'd ever have a chance to win and get to the Super Bowl," he said. "That's why I came here, because I thought this team had the best chance to win the Super Bowl. It's the greatest feeling in the world. Look at that trophy over there. We're the world champions."
MVP pick
Dexter Jackson played down his Super Bowl MVP award. He didn't mince words, however, about the Tampa Bay defense.
"We're one of the best of all-time. We're a great defense," Jackson said after the Buccaneers' victory over Oakland. "You never can say you're the best. We're one of the best. They know now, they know tonight, we're for real."
The Bucs' defense, the NFL's top-rated unit this season, had five interceptions, the first two by Jackson, and five sacks. It also held the Raiders, the league's No. 1 offense, to 19 yards rushing and 11 first downs.
Jackson was only the eighth defensive player and third defensive back to win the MVP award in the 37-year history of this game and when he met the media, he wouldn't let go of the MVP trophy.
"I share this with the whole secondary," he said.
With the Bucs leading 6-3, Jackson picked off Gannon again, this time at the Oakland 45. The Bucs did not score on the ensuing possession but got the field position that led to Mike Alstott's touchdown that made it 13-3. When the Bucs scored again before halftime, the rout was on.
"Gannon throws 40 to 50 times. Opportunities came my way and I capitalized on it," Jackson said. "During the season, people don't challenge our defense. He tried to make some plays, and I was able to capitalize."
And the rout was on.
Sapp states his case
When he was done praising the Steel Curtain and the Doomsday Defense, Warren Sapp was ready for a definitive statement one that would define his Buccaneers as the best unit in NFL history.
"We had to have that championship before we could say anything," Sapp said after a romp over Oakland. "Now you can put us in the same sentence as the Ravens and the Steel Curtain.
"But I don't think any of them faced the kind of offense like we did. None of them went into the Super Bowl and played the No. 1 offense. And we put a stranglehold on them."
Oakland ran for all of 19 yards, mostly because Sapp made the Raiders one-dimensional. That led to five interceptions, three of them returned for touchdowns, and five sacks.
Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon, the NFL's most valuable player this season, called it a "nightmarish performance." Sapp was right in the middle of that nightmare.
"We had an inferno going," said Sapp, who probably needed an inferno to light the foot-long cigar he was carrying around. "There was nothing they could do to us. Nothing."
Shedding the image
With one victory, the Buccaneers said goodbye to Creamsicle orange jerseys, their winking pirate logo and a long tradition of losing.
No longer will fans leave tickets on car windshields instead of going to Buccaneers games, not now that Tampa Bay is the Super Bowl champion.
Long-suffering fans hugged and high-fived as the clock ticked down to the Bucs' 48-21 win over Oakland, the first Super Bowl triumph in the team's 26-year history.
"It was due," said Kim Long, a season-ticket holder. "It was our time."
Gone are the years of double-digit losses. For Bucs fans, 27 years of frustration bubbled to the surface.
"Finally it's recognition," said Jen Hibener, who became a Bucs fan in the early '80s when her father bought the old orange team jerseys for her and her sister. "We still have our orange clothes. Finally we get to wear red and go to the Super Bowl."
Rice, Brown plan to be back
Jerry Rice and Tim Brown both plan to return to the Oakland Raiders next season despite their disappointing performances in the Super Bowl.
Moments after the Raiders lost to Tampa Bay, both members of the ageless receiving duo said they will play next season.
They are two of just three NFL receivers with more than 1,000 career receptions, but both had games to forget against Tampa Bay's punishing defense.
Rice, the 1989 Super Bowl MVP, was playing in his fourth title game. He had five catches for 77 yards but all of them came in the final 20 minutes after the Buccaneers had built a prohibitive lead.
"Yes, I'll be back next season," Rice said. "Without a doubt, bar none."
Rice, an 18-year veteran, turned 40 last Oct. 13. Despite the Raiders' problems, he set a playoff record with his 22nd touchdown on a catch midway through the fourth quarter.
Marines stay up
Scores of U.S. Marines stayed up all night at an American military base at Camp Commando, Kuwait, to watch the Super Bowl their hoots, boos, cheers and whistles reverberating through a desert tent.
The Marines all members of the 45,000-strong 1st Marine Expeditionary Force based in Camp Pendleton, California stood up in silence when Celine Dion sang "God Bless America," then let loose with wild abandon for each touchdown in Tampa Bay's victory over Oakland.
"It's like watching the game at home, except when I'm at home I don't keep an M-16 on me," said Lance Cpl. Jonathan Davis, 23, of Denver.
Some of the men painted their faces the colors of the team they were rooting for. Huddling around a television at a camp about 20 miles north of Kuwait City, they held up banners, smiled, laughed, sang, applauded and, in the case of the Raiders fans who seemed to be the majority, groaned in disgust.
"In Detroit we're used to massacres like this so it's nothing new for me. I thought I was watching the Lions," said Sgt. Dennis Kendall.

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