Rams-Bucs feud hasn't faded with time

Players still debate blame for post-game taunting

NFC notebook

Super Bowl Xxxiv

January 26, 2000|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- What actually happened at the end of the St. Louis-Tampa Bay NFC title game depends on whose version you believe.

There were skirmishes at the end of the game and Tampa Bay's Frank Middleton blamed it all on the Rams for taunting the Bucs.

"This team is a bunch of punks," Middleton said of the Rams.

Although Todd Lyght admitted Monday he was taunting the Bucs, two other Rams, Devon Bush and Billy Jenkins, got their first chance to give their versions on media day yesterday, and said that they were reacting to Middleton.

Bush said he came out of the locker room, spotted Middleton and was ready to shake hands and put the trash talking on the field behind them.

"I was like, `that stuff on the field, leave it on the field.' But he started to go the other way," Bush said.

It wasn't long before voices were raised and police stepped in to separate the two players. Meanwhile, Jenkins, who found himself being jawed at by Bucs quarterback Trent Dilfer, who was in street clothes, said he didn't say anything to Dilfer after the game.

"It was just that one guy, 73, [Middleton] on their team. He was talking nonsense the whole game. I got caught up in the excitement of stopping them on fourth down and us winning and we exchanged some words. It he was no big deal, but he held me on their sidelines," he said.

Of Dilfer, he said, "I guess he was just defending one of his teammates. I was interested in finding out what he planned on doing once he got out there."

The two men were quickly separated.

Return trip for Bush

Bush, who was with the Falcons last year, is with the NFC team in the Super Bowl for the second straight year, but he'll play a much bigger role this time.

He played only about a dozen plays for the Falcons in last year's Super Bowl, and felt he wasn't being utilized enough. He signed a four-year deal with the Falcons and is now the starting free safety.

"It's nice to go right back because you always hear you may never get a chance to go at all. To go back to back gets you a lot of attention," he said.

Of signing with St. Louis, he said, "They opened their arms to arm and said I was going to be their guy."

He said Atlanta didn't even bother to try to keep him.

"They kicked me to the curb," he said.

Trying moments

Fred Miller was an unlikely candidate to be the center of much attention at the Super Bowl.

He's the "other tackle" for the Rams, playing in the shadow of Pro Bowler Orlando Pace.

But he had some explaining to do yesterday because he was drilled by the Titans' pass-rushing specialist Jevon Kearse in the Rams' 24-21 loss to the Titans in the regular season. Bothered by the crowd noise, he jumped offside several times, gave up a sack and was called for holding.

Some players wouldn't be eager to discuss a poor game, but Miller was candid in admitting his shortcomings that day.

"I was definitely embarrassed by that game. When you have an outing like that and when it's a lack of focus and concentration and mental preparation, it really does embarrass you when you let the team down like that," he said.

Different times

Rams coach Dick Vermeil said the Super Bowl is much different than it was when he coached the Eagles in Super Bowl XV.

"It's much bigger. The cars we drive are faster, bigger, prettier, streamlined. The NFL is bigger, faster, streamlined. There are a lot more people involved," he said.

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