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Clifton Calls Sapp Incident 'Ancient History'


Not even a year ago, Green Bay Packers offensive tackle Chad Clifton lay on the turf at Raymond James Stadium writhing in pain with a separated pelvis.

The injury was the result of a hit by Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Warren Sapp.

A hit that Clifton didn't see coming, that ended his 2002 football season, that landed him in the hospital for days, that left him bedridden for weeks and then required him to use a walker just to get around.

A hit that, despite all the hardship since, Clifton swears he doesn't think about now, even though the Packers are returning to Tampa Bay for the first time since the incident.

"It's ancient history," Clifton said Wednesday. "It's in the past. I swear, I do not think about it at all."

The 'it' that Clifton has chosen to forget was almost impossible to avoid last November.

ESPN replayed the incident frequently, showing a 303-pound Sapp unloading on an unsuspecting Clifton during Brian Kelly's interception return.

Although well away from the football, the hit was deemed a legal block by the NFL.

A ruling Clifton didn't dispute then, or now.

"We all know these hits happen," Clifton said from the Packers auxiliary locker room, surrounded by cameras and microphones. "Like I've said before, it was a legal shot. He didn't hit me in the knees, he didn't hit me from behind.

"It was a clean shot. Unfortunately, I got hurt."

As a result, Clifton was not only out of action but almost entirely out of commission until the spring, when he began to rehab himself back into playing condition.

Doctors told him that his injury looked more like something out of a car accident than a football game, and yet Clifton was back in uniform at the start of training camp and was in the starting lineup at left tackle when the Packers opened the 2003 regular season.

Although Sapp never made any attempt to call Clifton to wish him well, Clifton broke months of media silence in March to express that he had no ill feelings for Sapp.

Clifton reiterated those thoughts Wednesday, and swore that neither he nor his fellow linemen would be seeking revenge Sunday.

"There's no room for that stuff," Clifton said. "I'm not going after Sapp. Nobody on this team will be going after Sapp ... To be honest with you -- I swear to God -- I do not care.

"What is this, our 10th game? I've played in every single game. I've played in every play. I mean, I'm back. I'm fine."

The last time the Packers and the Buccaneers met, they were fighting for supremacy in the NFC. This season, with 4-5 records, both teams are fighting just to stay alive in the playoff race.

And it's because of the stakes, not previous events, that emotions will be running high this weekend, the Packers insist.

"That happened last year," offensive guard Mike Wahle said of Sapp's hit. "It's not an issue this year. We're in a situation where we need to win this football game against a tough Tampa Bay opponent ... We just have to approach this game as we approach every other game, that it's a must-win for this football team."

Right guard Marco Rivera, who will be one of those responsible for slowing down the six-time Pro Bowler, agrees, calling the Clifton-Sapp story a "done deal."

"We've moved on," Rivera said. "You've got to understand, it's part of the game. It's accepted. Every time we line up and go out there on Sundays, anything can happen."

Including, theoretically, a replay of the same incident.

Asked if his head would be on a swivel for any blindside hits this weekend, Clifton couldn't help but chuckle.

"If there's an interception," he said, "absolutely."

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