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.
Hovan Gets Down and Dirty
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