CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said
Tampa Bay defensive tackle Warren Sapp was "lucky to be playing" Sunday because of his recent mistreatment of officials.
Sapp was fined $50,000 this week and threatened with suspension
after the league reviewed his conduct over a three-game period. The
fine came after the six-time Pro Bowl player bumped an official on
his way into last week's game against Washington.
"He had been warned explicitly by the coach and his
organization that if he did anything further in the pregame or
otherwise that was disrespectful of the officials, that he would be
disciplined," Tagliabue said Sunday before Carolina played Tennessee.
"Then he went out and deliberately bumped an official. So he is
lucky to be playing this week."
Sapp and the Buccaneers played Sunday at San Francisco.
Prior to bumping the official last week, the NFL said Sapp used
excessively abusive language to officials in two other games.
"I think his conduct over a three-week period, which was the
basis for the fine, was substantially over the line, to put it
mildly," Tagliabue said.
Sapp called the fine "unbelievable" and disputed several of
the NFL's claims, including bumping the official.
"It wasn't intentional. I tried to avoid him," Sapp said this
week. "The ref didn't think anything of it because he knew -- just
like I knew -- that I didn't try to bump him."
Tagliabue was making his first appearance at a Panthers game
Also, Tagliabue said the Carolinas are at least 10 years away
from hosting a Super Bowl from the time an official bid is made.
The Panthers have a 73,366-seat outdoor stadium. But the weather
in Charlotte in January is never consistent and Panthers owner
Jerry Richardson has admitted the city currently lacks the hotel
and tourism structure to host a Super Bowl.
Tagliabue did not touch on either of those issues, just pointing out there is a long list of cities eager to a Super Bowl.
"It's a tough competition," Tagliabue said. "I've told many
owners competing for the Super Bowl is as tough as competing for
your divisional title. This area would be competitive with a lot of
other areas. But ... there would be some tough competition."