- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEW ORLEANS -- When I walk into the room to vote for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013 on Saturday morning, I won’t be lugging any of Warren Sapp’s baggage.
We’ll see if other voters can do the same. Sapp is a polarizing figure, even in Tampa Bay where he spent the bulk of his career.
There are numerous stories about him being rude to fans. A lot of people around the league, including some in his own locker room, didn’t approve of all of Sapp’s antics. He could be arrogant and rude.
I once saw him bring a young reporter to tears in Cincinnati. As the beat writer for The Tampa Tribune early in Sapp’s career, I took a few verbal lashings. But there also were times when Sapp was engaging and lighthearted, although many in the media never experienced those moments, or have forgotten them.
None of that matters, because whether or not Sapp goes into the Hall of Fame in the first year he is eligible is not about his personality. And it certainly isn’t about the media’s personal feelings about him.
The only criteria for selection in the Hall of Fame’s by-laws is what a player did on the field. I think Sapp did plenty.
He was the dominant defensive tackle of his generation and, all these years later, we’re still waiting for the next Sapp.
I’m not fully prepared to say I’m voting for Sapp. I want to hear all the presentations before making a decision. But, as I sit here looking at the numbers, my gut feeling is that I’ll vote for him.
Sapp was a dominating force at defensive tackle. Without him and Derrick Brooks, I don’t think the Bucs of the late 1990s and early 2000s would be remembered as one of the best defenses ever. Without Sapp, I doubt the Bucs would have won a Super Bowl title.
Sapp was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1999. How often does a defensive tackle win Defensive Player of the Year?
The guy had better sack numbers than most defensive ends. He finished with 96.5 career sacks, including four seasons in which he reached double digits. He was voted to seven Pro Bowls and was named first-team All-Pro for four straight seasons.
So what if he wasn’t always the most pleasant guy to be around?
He did his job on the field. That really is all that matters.