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Verbal sparring elicits warning

By Mark Zuckerman



The NFL has chimed in on the LaVar Arrington-Warren Sapp war of words with a stern reminder of its own: stay away from each other or suffer the consequences.

The league sent reminders to both the Washington Redskins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers yesterday, telling each team that any on-field altercations between the two teams before Sunday's game at FedEx Field will be subject to penalty and possible ejection.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league was prompted to take action in the wake of Wednesday's verbal sparring between Arrington and Sapp. Both teams were reminded of league rules that prohibit players from interfering with members of the opposing team during pregame warmups, Aiello said.

The NFL this year instructed officials to be on the field 50 minutes before game time to watch for altercations. Teams can be penalized 15 yards on the opening kickoff for pregame taunting, and players can be ejected for fighting during warmups.

The issue was raised Wednesday by Arrington, who warned Sapp not to venture onto the Redskins' side of the field during stretching exercises. Sapp has been known to pull such stunts before; he ran past Indianapolis Colts players before Monday night's game in Tampa.

"You don't let somebody come in to where your whole team is," Arrington said Wednesday in his half-serious chiding of Sapp. "You don't let that happen. That's a blatant show of disrespect. It doesn't go down like that."

Arrington also called Sapp's occasional insertion into the Bucs' offense "disrespectful," and closed by staring into TV cameras and telling Sapp, "I'm going to get you."

Arrington kept his mouth shut yesterday, telling reporters, "I don't have anything else to say. I've already said what needs to be said."

Sapp, who refused to speak to Tampa Bay reporters yesterday, responded to Arrington on Wednesday by calling the Redskins' Pro Bowl linebacker "Mr. Can't Get Right," a reference to the movie "Life."

"You tell Mr. Can't Get Right, I'll be there at 10:30 a.m. sharp, Eastern Standard Time," Sapp said, apparently forgetting that Daylight Savings Time remains in effect for another two weeks. "Tell him don't be looking for me because I'm easily found."

Redskins players and coaches yesterday seemed to be taking the Arrington-Sapp soap opera in stride and said it won't be a distraction come Sunday.

"It doesn't bother me a bit," coach Steve Spurrier said. "I think LaVar's just trying to say, 'Don't run through our stretch lines, and we won't have any problems.' They have a rule you're not supposed to do that. ...

"I think [the verbal sparring] is OK in pro football. I don't think in college you should do that. There's a little more freedom of speech in the pros than in the high school and college ranks. But I don't think it's a big deal."

And what would Redskins players do if the 303-pound Sapp disrupts their pregame stretch?

"Being that I'm 195 pounds, probably nothing," wide receiver Laveranues Coles said. "I'd sit there and watch. What can I say? Now, if it was a little guy and he weighed 165, I'd get up in his face and ask him what he wanted to do. But a guy who's 300 pounds? No, you won't get no confrontation out of me."

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