Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle and current NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp bumped into Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera this week and admitted he doesnt know much about Riveras Panthers team.
But Sapp knows plenty about Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula, who ran the Buccaneers offense when Sapp played in Tampa Bay.
Heard of the Mike & Mike Show on ESPN Radio? Well, Sapp said Tampa Bays players referred to the Bucs attack under Shula as the Mike & Mike offense because of Shulas reliance on fullback Mike Alstott.
Thats all we had. Mike calling it, faking it to Mike, throwing it to Mike, Sapp said. Mike Shula to Mike Alstott, thats what we called it the Mike and Mike offense.
The Bucs never finished higher than 22nd in total offense during Shulas four years as coordinator. But Sapp, in Charlotte for Bobcats president Fred Whitfields annual golf tournament, believes Shula will be successful with more offensive weapons with Carolina.
Hes been dreaming up some stuff, I promise you. Mike will get it going, Sapp said. Hes going to find a way to get this offense moving. Thats just what he does. Hes a good offensive coordinator. I like Mike.
Hall of Fame inductee Sapp and Rivera were among two dozen former and current athletes participating in Whitfields 11th annual celebrity golf tournament. The event serves as the primary fundraiser for Whitfields HoopTee Charities, which supports youth-based charitable activities.
As for Shula, the son of Hall-of-Fame coach Don Shula did not have a franchise quarterback to work with in Tampa.
During his stint as the Bucs coordinator from 1996 to 1999, Shulas quarterbacks were Trent Dilfer and Shaun King, the starter when Tampa Bay advanced to the NFC championship game in 1999. Those Bucs teams won with a strong, Sapp-led defense and a traditional running game spearheaded by Alstott and Warrick Dunn.
While Sapp sees the Panthers Cam Newton as an accomplished, all-around quarterback, he said Carolina needs to establish its ground game with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart to be a more effective offense.
The thing (Newton) has to do is get himself back in a situation where hes making positive plays for his team. Thats it, Sapp said. Once you get the positive plays and get that run game going where the quarterback aint out-running the two $75 million running backs in the backfield, then youve got something cooking.
Lets do that. Lets get the run game going, and then Cam will throw it around. Were sure of that. Weve seen that happen.
Newton, the offensive rookie of the year in 2011, has passed for more yards in his first two seasons than any NFL quarterback. Last season he ran for 741 yards, becoming the first quarterback to lead his team in rushing since Donovan McNabb in 2000.
Shula, the Panthers quarterbacks coach the past two seasons, and Rivera have indicated they will continue to utilize the read option a staple under former coordinator and first-year Cleveland coach Rob Chudzinski albeit with less frequency.
Even before Chudzinski left, the Panthers had gone to a more traditional ground game near the end of last season, with Williams getting the bulk of the carries in place of the injured Stewart.
Stewart, who signed a $36.5 million extension before last season, had offseason surgery on both ankles after missing seven games in 2012. Rivera said Stewart is progressing well, but stopped short of saying Stewart would be ready for the start of training camp in two weeks.
The Panthers report to Wofford on July 25.
Well see, Rivera said. Hes been rehabbing and working with our trainers. Well see once we get to the 25th.
Stewart was scheduled to participate in Whitfields golf event before withdrawing because of his ankle issues, according to a tournament official.
But Rivera said he noticed Stewart working out at Bank of America Stadium on Wednesday, and was pleased with what he saw.
Hes been very diligent about that. So Im pretty excited about it, Rivera said. Im pretty excited about getting him back full throttle and ready to go.