- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
It started as a verbal heavyweight bout with Warren Sapp, Kris Jenkins and Brentson Buckner arguing about who was the best defensive tackle in football. They're all gone, but that trio helped create the best rivalry in the NFC South.
Sure, everything's relative in a division where the four teams haven't been around forever and none of them have a very gaudy history, but the rivalry between the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers is very strong and very real.
It started with some training camp words from Buckner, who endorsed Jenkins as the best interior lineman in the league in 2003 and Sapp took exception. Things only escalated when the Panthers went down to Tampa and blocked three kicks in an overtime game that was one of the most physical contests in recent memory.
Through the years Carolina defensive lineman Kavika Pittman essentially had his career ended by what teammates said was a cheap block by Kenyatta Walker and Tampa Bay quarterback Chris Simms eventually lost his spleen after being hit front and back by Jenkins and linebacker Thomas Davis.
Oh, by the way, no account of this rivalry would be complete without mention of one of the more infamous stories of the last few seasons. Early on the morning before a 2005 meeting between these two teams, two members of Carolina's cheerleading squad were arrested after an incident in the restroom of a Tampa nightclub.
+ INTENSITY RATING: 2 (Have 911 on your cellular phone's speed dial)