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Bucs' rookie defensive tackles receive helping hand from Sapp

TAMPA, Fla. -- Gerald McCoy doesn't want to become the next Warren Sapp.

The third overall pick in last week's NFL draft will happily settle for making a name for himself as he tries to fill a hole that has existed on Tampa Bay's defensive line since Sapp left six seasons ago.

Sapp wants to help McCoy become a star.

And not just McCoy. Sapp also wants to reach out to Brian Price, the 303-pound tackle out of UCLA selected in the second round to play alongside the 295-pound McCoy.

"I can't get out on the field with them. I can't do it any more, I'm too old," the 37-year-old Sapp said by telephone from Los Angeles, where he works for NFL Network.

"But I think I have somebody who might want to sit down and watch a little tape with me. I can show you and talk to you about it. ... I'm not telling you how to do it. I'm just showing you something that worked."

Sapp, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection with the Bucs, met McCoy and Price and watched tape of both before Tampa Bay made the tandem its top two picks. Sapp believes they have the ability to be impact players in the Tampa 2 defensive scheme that coach Raheem Morris revived late last season.

As a first-round pick out of Oklahoma, McCoy will be the focal point of a defensive overhaul. However, Sapp noted that Price will be one of the keys to the former Sooners star fulfilling his potential as a pro.

"The thing is he's not by himself. This kid, Price, can play, too," Sapp said.

Sapp said he flourished, in part, because of the relationship he developed with tackles he played beside - including Brad Culpepper, Anthony McFarland and Chartric Darby.

"It wasn't just me. They wanted to make it out to be me," Sapp said. "I was a pretty good player, but I had some people in there who were willing to do grunt work, too. And now, (McCoy) has somebody in there who's more than a grunt and can do some great work for him."

McCoy and Price began work for their first NFL season Friday, when the Bucs opened a three-day minicamp for rookies.

In addition to getting out on the field for the first time in Tampa Bay gear, a highlight of the day for McCoy was meeting Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon, who also played at Oklahoma and is the only Buccaneer elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"I've met everybody I wanted to meet," McCoy said after an afternoon workout. "I met John Randle at the draft. Warren Sapp. I already knew Tommie Harris, and I wanted to meet Lee Roy Selmon. It was a great experience.

"He told me to keep doing what I'm doing."

McCoy is the first defensive tackle the Bucs have selected in the first round since McFarland in 1999. He's the highest-drafted interior lineman the team has taken since Sapp was the 12th overall pick 15 years ago.

The expectations that come with being picked third don't faze the 22-year-old.

"I can deal with it. It's nothing new to me," McCoy said, adding that playing in a similar defensive system should help his transition to the NFL.

"I've come in here to help this team. I didn't come in to be on the sideline and just be another rookie who got paid a lot of money. I want to be a great football player."

Sapp likes those chances, as long as McCoy understands that Price, who began learning the nose tackle position Friday, can help him accomplish that goal.

"The biggest thing he's going to have to do is lean on Price," Sapp said. "And Price is going to have to help him because both of them together are better than me. Not one on one, not one individual standing by himself.

"But them together, they can eclipse anything that I've done. But it's going to take both of them."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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