Packers GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said it was his displeasure over an injury-causing hit and the celebrating that went on afterward that led to his verbal confrontation with Buccaneers defensive tackle Warren Sapp following the Packers' 21-7 loss to Tampa Bay Sunday.
Midway through the third quarter Sapp left his feet to lay a hit on Packers offensive tackle Chad Clifton during Brian Kelly's 31-yard interception return. Clifton suffered at least an injured right hip as a result of the hit and was carted off the field and taken to a Tampa hospital having complained of numbness in his limbs.
"I just went up to Warren and told him I didn't appreciate the lick that he put on Clifton and the joviality that existed afterward with a guy laying on the ground and numbness in his legs and his fingers," Sherman said. "I just thought that wasn't appropriate for any NFL player. I have a lot of respect for the game and I just didn't think there was a place for that."
Packers offensive guard Mike Wahle didn't see the hit, but had been blocking Sapp earlier on the play.
"The ball was picked off and (Kelly) started running toward my left and Sapp was on my left so I kind of locked up on him," Wahle said. "The DB cut back and I started running to the right trying to find an angle. I heard Sapp kind of, he said something like he had maybe found a target. It turned out to be true."
Wahle couldn't say whether Sapp's hit was legal, nor whether it was made with malicious intent.
"He intentionally knocked him on his ass," he said. "That's part of football. I didn't see the hit. I don't know if it was legal or not. Obviously we're not too sure about it. It is part of football. I would hope that it was a clean hit, but you never know until you see it."
Offensive guard Marco Rivera also didn't see the hit, but said he hoped it was made within the rules of the game. He did see Sapp's post-hit antics however, and found them inappropriate in light of Clifton's injury.
"That's not part of the game," Rivera said. "When a guy's down and hurt, the last thing you want to do is taunt somebody."
Sherman called Sapp a "great player" but said it would be up to the league to review the play and determine whether the hit was within the rules.
"Maybe I overreacted to the hit," he said. "From what I saw it looked kind of cheap, but who knows? The afterthought, the after-reaction when a guy's laying numb on the ground and you -- who are responsible for that -- to be happy about it, that bothers me a little bit. And I think the game of football, it should bother the game of football as well."
Clifton was to spend Sunday night in a Tampa-area hospital for further evaluation.