ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — JaMarcus Russell
's immense size was much less of a jolt for many of the Oakland Raiders than the sight of Warren Sapp
The formerly bulky Sapp arrived at minicamp this weekend looking like a scaled-down version of himself, dropping nearly 50 pounds since the end of last season and weighing only about 25 pounds more than Oakland's rookie quarterback.
"He looks funny, doesn't he," defensive end Derrick Burgess
said. "Looks good though. I like what he did for himself. That should add about six more sacks to it I bet."
Sapp did just fine at his old weight of 334 pounds, recording 10 sacks in his most productive season since 2000 and anchoring a defense that was the only strength for the Raiders during a difficult 2-14 season.
But he still spent the offseason slimming down and is as light as he's been in years. Sapp wouldn't disclose how much weight he lost but coach Lane Kiffin said his star defensive tackle was down to 285 pounds from 334 late last season.
"He looks fast out here, he's flying around. Obviously we're extremely pleased where he's at right now," Kiffin said. "He had told us a number of times how hard he was working down there in Florida. ... He's right on schedule."
Sapp is still his talkative self on the field, interjecting comments and trash talk throughout practice all weekend. Sapp said he hadn't stepped on a scale recently but that he was motivated by next season's schedule to lose the weight.
The Raiders make a trip to Miami to face the Dolphins on Sept. 30, and after playing his college career in the South Florida heat while at Miami, Sapp knew it would be hard to succeed down there at his old weight. He already is noticing some differences.
"I feel better when I wake up in the morning," he said. "It's a lot easier to get out of bed. Other than that, I just wanted to be in good physical condition to come into this thing and go. I looked at the schedule and we got to go to Miami at the end of September. I know what Florida weather is like. I'm going to spread the word because, if we don't, we're going to come out of there in real bad shape because Florida weather's nothing to be played with in four quarters of football."
Kiffin has brought renewed energy to the Raiders after last year's trouble-filled season under Art Shell. Despite having the NFL's third-ranked defense, Oakland won just two games because of an offense that managed only 12 touchdowns and allowed 72 sacks.
Sapp was frustrated by the developments with the Raiders and met with owner Al Davis after the season to express his feelings.
"After the conversation the coach was fired the next day," Sapp said. "I'm not saying the two go together but that's the events of where they're at. I had a talk with him and then it went that way. That's just the way it went down."
Sapp is pleased that most of Oakland's defense is back this season, along with coordinator Rob Ryan. He said the continuity will be a big benefit since the players know what defenses Ryan likes to call at what times.
It's the offense that had most of the changes, with an entirely new coaching staff, new quarterbacks Russell and Josh McCown
, free agent running backs Dominic Rhodes
and Justin Griffith
and a slew of other new players at receiver, tight end and offensive line.
The changes have brought a dose of optimism to the Raiders, but Sapp knows there's still plenty of work left to do. After winning just 11 games in his first three years in Oakland, Sapp is being realistic.
"Over my 12 years in this thing I've learned to temper it right now," Sapp said. "Put yourself in position where each day you get a little bit better, because this is a marathon. Right now is our first step. So far, so good."