Wednesday, October 15, 2003
Ahanotu looking forward to Tampa Bay reunion
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Chidi Ahanotu still lives in Tampa,
Fla., where football fans recognize him everywhere he goes. He
still imagines finishing his NFL career with the Tampa Bay
Buccaneers, his employer for eight years.
That won't stop the 49ers' defensive lineman from spilling
everything he knows about the Bucs -- and sharing his distaste for
Warren Sapp -- as San Francisco prepares to face Tampa Bay on Sunday
at Candlestick Park.
"I'll always have fond memories," the Buccaneers' former
franchise player said Wednesday. "I helped build something there.
I always have dreams of Tampa Bay, closing out my career there --
but I'm planning to play 10 more years."
After cracking the Buccaneers' lineup as a sixth-round draft
pick from California in 1993, Ahanotu started 104 games before
Tampa Bay released him in a cost-cutting move before the 2001
After single seasons in St. Louis and Buffalo, Ahanotu signed
with the 49ers on Aug. 21. Though he missed training camp while
searching for the best free-agent offer, Ahanotu quickly has
assumed an important role in San Francisco's defensive line
"He's stepped right in and made his presence felt," defensive
coordinator Jim Mora said. "He's given us a veteran pass rush on
the edge, and he's a great guy as a teammate."
Ahanotu is a Northern California native who was born in Modesto
and graduated from high school in Berkeley, but Tampa became his
permanent home during his years as the Bucs' starting left
Tampa Bay's defensive scheme hasn't changed much since Ahanotu
was released. While he bounced to three teams in three seasons, the
Buccaneers won the Super Bowl with the same defense he helped bring
If the 49ers want to pick Ahanotu's brain, he's ready to help.
"They haven't come to me to ask me yet, but I was already
talking to Jeff (Garcia) about them two weeks ago," Ahanotu said.
"Obviously, I still know a lot of those guys, and I know a lot of
what they do. It's nothing you can't see on film anyway. There's no
secrets in the NFL ... but I'm ready to help out."
Ahanotu spent his final season in Tampa Bay making a weekly
commute to Miami to see his two children, and the stress led to a
subpar season and his subsequent release when the Bucs signed
Ahanotu faced the Buccaneers in 2001 while he was with the Rams.
Admittedly, he had a bit of extra motivation: He made a career-high
11 tackles in Tampa Bay's 24-17 win.
A dislike for Sapp, the Bucs' superstar defensive tackle,
apparently is part of Ahanotu's motivation against the world
champions. Ahanotu refused to give any specifics on his
disagreements with Sapp, his teammate for six years, until after
"Oh, I'll have plenty to say," Ahanotu said.
But when asked if the 49ers would tolerate something similar to
Sapp's dance through the Indianapolis Colts' warmup lines before
their game earlier this season, Ahanotu laughed.
"That's what he is, is a lot of hot air," Ahanotu said. "If
he does that, you already know what's going to happen."