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Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Warren Sapp (99) walks off the field after the Kansas City Chiefs scored in the fourth quarter of their NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 21, 2007. The Chiefs won 12-10. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
Warren Sapp spent 13 seasons carving out an NFL career that no doubt will culminate with his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

On Thursday, Sapp made the quantum leap from elite NFL defensive tackle to retired 35-year-old in two words, or about as long as it took for him to drop a quarterback.

"I'm done," in a phone conversation Thursday morning.

Sapp leaves the game with his body intact, his mind sharp and his resume chock full of impressive credentials.

"If you were going to pick a football team and play on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday or whenever, and it came time for you to pick your (defensive tackle)," Sapp said by phone, "you were taking me with you. That's all I ever wanted from this game."

In the end, Sapp received much more than widespread recognition as one of the game's premier players.

He earned seven Pro Bowl selections with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1999. He played a vital role on the Buccaneers' Super Bowl championship team in the 2002 season. Quarterbacks always knew where he lined up.

Former Raiders coach Norv Turner called Sapp a "unique guy and a great football player."

He has a different take on Sapp's legacy.

"Coaches coaching against him and players trying to block him, (his legacy is) going to be as a great football player," Turner said. "He's a disruptive force, and those (Tampa Bay) defenses were as good as any in the league during that stretch.


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He was the leader of them."

Sapp credits former Buccaneers defensive line coach Rod Marinelli with molding him into a well-rounded player. His development came under the watchful eye of defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.

Along the way, Sapp got to know Kiffin's son, Lane, now the coach of the Raiders. They grew even closer this past year.

"Warren and I hit it off pretty good right away," Lane Kiffin said Monday, "and he liked what he saw in the team meetings. He liked what we talked about, the practice tempo, a bunch of things he'd been disappointed in before. He really got behind us and what we were doing. It was a good experience."

Sapp finished with 961/2 career sacks. Former Minnesota Viking John Randle is the only tackle with more sacks.

"There are three dudes people are always talking about when it comes to three-techniques, under tackles, whatever you want to call it," Sapp said. "John Randle, Keith Millard and me. ... Those three guys right there, you can't go wrong with any of them."

Sapp first informed Davis of his intention to retire in a get-together last Friday night. Davis told Sapp to think about his decision and get back to him this week. That time came in what Sapp termed a "simple conversation."

Davis and Sapp thanked each other for the four-year relationship they enjoyed from the time Sapp joined the Raiders in 2004, exchanged thoughts on the Raiders' current plight, and vowed to see each other in a week.

At that time, Davis told Sapp the Raiders will honor Sapp in a formal setting somewhere in Oakland or Alameda. Sapp said he is thrilled by the prospect.

Davis always has been fond of Sapp. He admired Sapp's tenacity, production and enthusiasm for the game.

So it was that Davis pounced on the chance to land Sapp once he became a free agent after the 2003 season. Sapp learned of the Raiders' interest in him through an early-morning call from agent Drew Rosenhaus.

"He said, 'Al Davis is on the line, and he's not getting off until you're a Raider,'" Sapp said. "I said, 'Well, do the deal.' I didn't take a visit here. I didn't see who the defensive coordinator was. I didn't see who the head coach was. Al Davis said, 'Warren Sapp, I want you to play for the Oakland Raiders.' I said, 'I'll take that.' I came here, I put in four years."

Sapp said he has no immediate plans. Yet, one day he said he envisions himself as an analyst of some sort.

Contact Steve Corkran at scorkran@bayareanewsgroup.com.