ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) -- Warren Sapp told the Oakland Raiders on Thursday that he was retiring, ending the career of one of the best defensive tackles to play in the NFL.
Sapp told the Contra Costa Times that he phoned Raiders owner Al Davis with the news Thursday. The Raiders had no official comment, but coach Lane Kiffin hinted at Sapp's decision earlier this week.
Sapp, 35, was the quintessential "three technique" tackle during his 13-year career, lining up between the guard and tackle and splitting that gap. Few did it better than Sapp, who made seven Pro Bowls, won the AP Defensive Player of the Year award in 1999, and was a key cog in Tampa Bay's Super Bowl winning defense in the 2002 season.
"Every defensive tackle that's drafted in the top five is supposed to be the next (me)," Sapp said earlier this season. "All of them have that tag. ... I've played the game pretty well, so if I'm the standard by which (they'll) be judged, that's tough, because I'd like to relive that guy, too. He's a bad boy. He's dead now. I give you flashes of him every now and then but, nah, that guy was sick."
After having 10 sacks in 2006, Sapp wasn't as successful this season when he finished with only two. He was also part of a Raiders defense that struggled against the run, allowing a league-worst 4.8 yards per carry.
Sapp was no longer the every-down menace he was during his younger days in Tampa, but he could still pick his spots. In his final game against San Diego, Sapp shot through a gap and hit quarterback Philip Rivers' forearm before he could hand the ball off to LaDainian Tomlinson, causing a fumble.
"You get a little older, you can see your weaknesses a little bit more and go about 45-50 plays now," Sapp said late in the season. "But there's still some good gas in the tank and I'm still able to make the plays."
Sapp finished his career with 96 1/2 sacks, the 28th most since the NFL began keeping track of the statistic in 1982. What made that even more remarkable is that Sapp played primarily on the inside at tackle, where sacks are traditionally much harder to come by.
Sapp was considered a coach on the field by the defensive staff on the Raiders and was viewed as a leader by the young players that surrounded him.
"I felt like having him here made me a better football player," Raiders linebacker Kirk Morrison said. "He was the leader of this defense. They say the middle linebacker is supposed to lead, but the guy has been in the league 13 years and he's seen it all. I leaned on him. There's so much more for me to learn from him I don't want him to leave yet."
Sapp began his career in Tampa Bay in 1995, where he helped turn one of the league's perennial losers into Super Bowl champions following the 2002 season. The Buccaneers had only three winning seasons in 19 years before Sapp arrived.
Along with linebacker Derrick Brooks and safety John Lynch, Sapp was a mainstay on the Bucs defense under coach Tony Dungy. The success they had helped make the "Tampa Two" defense a staple around the league and sent Tampa to the postseason five times in six years from 1997-2002.
Sapp became known as much for his sterling play as he did for his entertaining trash talking on the field.
"I can't stop that," Sapp said. "I'm going to do that as loud as I can for as long as I can because it just gets me going. That's the way I play the game. I can't help it."
Sapp starred in college at the University of Miami, where he arrived as a tight end and left as the best defensive player in the country. He slipped to No. 12 in the 1995 draft after testing positive for marijuana at the scouting combine.
That was just one controversy in Sapp's career. In 2002, he nearly ended the career of Packers offensive tackle Chad Clifton with a vicious hit while trying to throw a block after an interception. Then-Packers coach Mike Sherman confronted Sapp on the field after the game, calling it a dirty play.
Sapp was fined $50,000 for bumping an official in 2003 and was fined $75,000 after being ejected following three personal fouls in the second-to-last game of his career against Jacksonville.
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