CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- There's no love lost between Tampa Bay and Carolina's defenses, proved during training camp when both sides took shots at each other.
With their first meeting of the season set for Sunday in Tampa Bay, both sides have clammed up over who is better.
For Bucks defensive tackle Warren Sapp, an all-world trash talker, that meant just taking one little swipe at Carolina defensive end Brentson Buckner.
"I don't think Brentson Buckner has any pineapple in his diet," Sapp said Wednesday.
When pressed on what he meant, the six-time Pro Bowler said it he was referring to Buckner never having been selected to go to Hawaii for a Pro Bowl.
"The finest pineapple in the world comes from Hawaii, doesn't it? That's what I mean by pineapple in your diet," he said.
Buckner had zero interest in having the remark repeated to him later.
"I don't care what another man says," he snapped. "I'm not into liking dudes."
There's a bitter rivalry developing between Tampa Bay and Carolina, two NFC South teams who finished last season ranked first and second in the NFL in total defense.
But the Bucs went on to win the Super Bowl and the Panthers watched it from home, failing to make the playoffs after a 7-9 season that including two losses to Tampa Bay.
The Panthers have had a chip on their shoulder ever since, confident they're at the same level as Tampa Bay and worthy of being mentioned with the Bucs as a top defense.
Buckner made that clear in training camp, firing a verbal shot in saying Carolina defensive tackle Kris Jenkins was better than Sapp. Jenkins, in his third year, was an All-Pro last season and went to the Pro Bowl as an alternate after Sapp backed out.
"Jenks is a pass-rusher, he's a run-stopper, you're getting the whole package with him," Buckner said. "He could be special. He could revolutionize the position."
When word got back to Sapp, he couldn't help but disagree through a pointed response.
"The kid can't be on my level yet, that's just silly," Sapp said. "He's still a young guy. I know what that's like, trying to fight and take down the big dog. But don't throw rocks at the throne."
Jenkins, who did his part to stay out of it, continued that position Wednesday.
"I plan to play on Sunday, have a nice battle and maybe drink some tea afterward," he said.
The Panthers are trying hard not to give Tampa Bay any bulletin board material in advance of Sunday's meeting. Instead, they're trying to focus on correcting the little mistakes that cost them wins in both meetings last year.
Carolina hung with the Bucs in both games. The Panthers were up 9-6 late in the first meeting, then unraveled and allowed Tampa Bay to kick two field goals in the final two minutes for a 12-9 victory.
And the Panthers were tied 10-10 well into the third quarter of the second meeting before falling 23-10. Still, Carolina coach John Fox said the Panthers did not earn any moral victories by playing hard with the Bucs.
"Nobody remembers the actual score, just whether it was a 'W' or 'L,' " he said. "I think there were some things that we did that were effective. Hopefully, we will be able to take advantage of those opportunities."
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