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NFL threatens to suspend Sapp

TAMPA, Fla. -- The NFL fined Tampa Bay defensive lineman Warren Sapp $50,000 on Tuesday for mistreating officials and
threatened him with a suspension if his behavior doesn't improve.

The six-time Pro Bowl selection called the action
"unbelievable" and said he feels the league is trying to make an
example of him.

"That's all this is about," Sapp said in a telephone
interview. "In my nine years in this league, no one's been fined
for verbally abusing officials. It's unprecedented."

Sapp hasn't decided if he'll appeal.

"Who do I appeal to?" the All-Pro tackle asked. "We're
already at the highest level, the commissioner's office."

NFL director of game operations Peter Hadhazy issued the fine
after reviewing Sapp's conduct in three games. Hadhazy said any
further misconduct will result in a suspension of at least one
game.

Before last Sunday's game against Washington, Sapp bumped into
an official as he entered the field during pregame warmups.

"There was absolutely no need for you to do so," Hadhazy
stated in a letter to Sapp. "To the contrary, it is apparent that
you deliberately made contact with the official. ... This
misconduct occurred even though you had been strongly advised by
the Buccaneers' management only days before to refrain from taking
actions during the pregame warmups that were disruptive to your
opponents, disrespectful to the game officials, and in violation of
league rules regarding unsportsmanlike conduct."

Sapp said he "barely brushed" the official, who turned in his
direction to begin moving up the sideline.

"It wasn't intentional. I tried to avoid him," Sapp said.
"The ref didn't think anything of it because he knew -- just like I
knew -- that I didn't try to bump him."

In two earlier games this year, the NFL said Sapp used
excessively abusive language to officials.

"Your continuing disrespectful and intimidating conduct has no
place in the game," Hadhazy wrote. "You have repeatedly abused
game officials and ignored their directions and authority in at
least three of the Buccaneers' games this season."

Sapp disputed that claim, too.

"They're going to fine me for something that happened a month
ago? If I verbally abused somebody so bad, you would think there
would have been a warning or something," Sapp said. "I just want
to see the report and what I supposedly said."

The tackle took exception to the NFL's contention that he
ignored directions and verbally abused game officials on Oct. 6
after they tried to warn him against disrupting the Indianapolis
Colts' pregame routine.

The league pointed out that the incident before the Indianapolis
game occurred three weeks after Sapp was penalized for verbal abuse
of an official during Tampa Bay's 12-9 loss to Carolina on Sept.
14.

"I didn't say a word in the Indianapolis game. I just kept
walking. ... I want to know how much that cost me. And how much did
the Carolina game cost me," Sapp said, adding that the league did
not provide a breakdown.

The unsportsmanslike conduct penalty Sapp drew against Carolina
occurred on a play in which the Bucs were using him as a tight end
on offense.

The flag was thrown at the end of the play when Sapp said he was
trying to draw attention to one of the Panthers grabbing Mike
Alstott's face mask when the fullback was tackled after a short
gain.

"You can see me [on replays] pointing at my teammate's face
mask," Sapp said. "It's just unbelievable."