Hovan Gets Down and Dirty

Bucs newcomer doesn't ask for headlines but has earned them this season.

By Jeff Berlinicke

TAMPA – Down in the trenches, it's the big man who steps up.

It used to be Warren Sapp. Booger McFarland gets it done when he's healthy. Both are flamboyant, headline grabbers, but the guy who has gotten it done without making a sound this year has been Chris Hovan.

Hovan, a free agent from the Minnesota Vikings, has quietly held the defensive line together. McFarland hasn't appeared healthy and has battled injuries his entire career. Dewayne White hasn't played up to last year's rookie performance, and Greg Spires may be losing a step, but Hovan has quietly been a key force on a defensive line that has been the key to the Bucs success this season.

He flew under the radar. During his years with the Vikings, Hovan was known for his tattoos and his wild side, but he's toned down since coming to Tampa, wearing suits and ties while his teammates tend to go about their way in jeans and a T-shirt.

Hovan said that's the way he likes it.

"It's all about what you do on the field,'' Hovan said. "I don't care if I get noticed, as long as we win.''

Hovan was brought in during the off-season to make up for the missing spot in the middle that was left after Sapp's departure prior to last season. McFarland was supposed to fill the void, but he was injured, and teams ran up the gut all season as the Bucs stumbled to a 5-11 finish.

Hovan was named second-team all-pro by Sports Illustrated, and he was grabbed up quickly by the Bucs. He also supplies some key inside on the Vikings offensive system that helped the Bucs to a win over the Vikings in Week 1.

He'll be a key in Saturday's showdown in Foxboro, Mass. against the New England Patriots in what should be a cold-weather game. Forecasts have the temperature in the low 20s, meaning that running will be at a premium. The Bucs have long forsaken their image as a team that couldn't win when the thermostat went below 50 degrees, but the Patriots are clearly the more experience team with three Super Bowl rings in the past four years. The Bucs had the other one.

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