- The Washington Times - Monday, October 13, 2003

The anticipated war of words between Tampa Bay’s Warren Sapp and Washington’s LaVar Arrington wound up fizzling as much as the Redskins in the second half of their 35-13 drubbing against the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers yesterday at FedEx Field.

On Wednesday, Arrington warned Sapp not to repeat his usual habit of wading into the opponent’s pregame stretching routine. The Pro Bowl linebacker said if the Pro Bowl defensive tackle “disrespected” the Redskins, he would get him. Sapp responded by saying that he “wouldn’t be hard to find” if Arrington wanted a piece of him before the game.

Both teams were warned by the league on Thursday to stay away from each other during warmups. They obeyed orders yesterday though Sapp, the last Buc to hit the field, couldn’t resist prancing the length of the Tampa Bay sideline just after the Redskins concluded stretching.

“I said I’d be here at 10:30 sharp,” the smiling Sapp said after the game. “It was just one of those deals where LaVar was appealing to the fans for a loud reckless crowd and that’s what he had in the first half. That’s what I would do too if someone was coming in my stadium in a manner I didn’t like. I didn’t need to run through their stretch. They’ve got a whole 53-man squad that we were coming after. … We were after the game not the pregame.”

And the game is what the Bucs got, turning a 10-7 Redskins halftime lead into a laugher for the visitors. After limiting Tampa Bay to 84 yards, eight first downs and a touchdown in the first half, Washington’s defense surrendered 295 yards, 17 first downs and three touchdowns in the final 30 minutes (the Bucs’ defense scored their last touchdown). The Redskins’ offense collapsed in similar fashion.

“I wasn’t joking when I said people have to respect our stretching line,” Arrington said of his Wednesday warning to Sapp. “That’s not how I was taught to play this game.”

But the teammates from the NFC’s last two Pro Bowl squads were pals after the game.

“Warren came up to me,” said Arrington, who had six tackles but a costly unnecessary roughness penalty while Sapp had his first two sacks of the year. “He understood [Arrington’s Wednesday comments]. We embraced and wished each other luck. We have a good friendship, but on Sundays, that’s out the door. He got the last laugh … for right now. We’ve got a lot of talent, a lot of playmakers. At some point, this is going to turn around.”

With three losses in four games after a 2-0 start and with four of their next five on the road, it’s looking like the Redskins’ season already has turned and not in the direction Arrington would like.

“I’m so disappointed right now,” Arrington said. “I thought we really believed in ourselves. I thought I had my finger on it. I’ve been a part of seasons where we lost because the other team was better, but I felt like in every game we’ve played [this year] that we were the better team. We were winning and all of a sudden it got ugly. We had an opportunity to prove that we can beat a champion, to show that we are a legitimate contender, but we let that opportunity slip away. I don’t think anyone’s giving up on the season … [but] this team has to mature. We have to figure out how to win these games.”

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