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Darren Sharper's career numbers rank with those of the best defensive backs in NFL history

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Rod Woodson says he doesn't mind that New Orleans Saints safety Darren Sharper is threatening to erase his name from the NFL record books. With Sharper's game-breaking heroics becoming almost a weekly occurrence, the 13-year veteran is sprinting closer and ...

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Old 11-01-2009, 08:34 PM   #1
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Rod Woodson says he doesn't mind that New Orleans Saints safety Darren Sharper is threatening to erase his name from the NFL record books.
With Sharper's game-breaking heroics becoming almost a weekly occurrence, the 13-year veteran is sprinting closer and closer to Woodson's career marks for interception return yardage (Woodson 1,483, Sharper 1,353) and interceptions returned for touchdowns (Woodson 12, Sharper 11).
"Honestly, they should be broken, " said Woodson, a 2009 Hall of Fame inductee who seemed almost proud that a wily veteran is getting the better of some of the young passers around the league. "The league is set up now so you throw the football, and that really gives defensive backs an opportunity, especially when you play against young quarterbacks.
"That play he had against (Jets rookie quarterback) Mark Sanchez, when he took it 99 yards for a touchdown, he disguised it well. He acted like he was going to (cover) the inside receiver. That comes from him playing for 13 years against a young guy."
But then there are also the interceptions that seem to find Sharper -- like the bobbled pass that was tipped up by Saints cornerback Tracy Porter last week at Miami, then snagged by Sharper and returned 42 yards for a touchdown.
"What's the old saying, 'The harder you work, the luckier you get, ' " said Woodson, who now works as an analyst for the NFL Network. "You have to have some of those types of plays in your career. But I think the saying is true. You work hard, and you know the game better than the young quarterbacks in the league, you're going to make plays."
Although Sharper earned four Pro Bowl trips in his first 12 seasons with Green Bay and Minnesota, he seems to have emerged quietly as one of the game's all-time interception leaders.
With six interceptions this season, Sharper has 60 for his career, ranking him ninth in that category -- three spots behind Ronnie Lott, eight behind Dick "Night Train" Lane, 11 behind Woodson and 21 behind leader Paul Krause, among other Hall of Famers in that select company.
Saints linebacker Scott Shanle admits he was a little surprised when he saw how prolific Sharper's résumé was when he joined the Saints. But now he's plenty aware of those credentials.
Shanle said he was watching some ESPN analysts debate whether Sharper belonged in the Hall of Fame the other night. As they hemmed and hawed and said, "Well, maybe, " Shanle thought to himself that Sharper "must be one of the most underrated players ever."
Lott, however, said that depends on whom you ask.
"Well, yes and no, " Lott said. "He's underappreciated maybe in the minds of certain people. But not in the minds of guys who have played the game and guys who know the position.
"One thing I've always liked about Darren, he has this unique ability, like Rod Woodson and like Ed Reed and those guys, they have an intuition of where the ball is going to be probably 90 or 95 percent of the time. And they have a really good sense of understanding how to play defense.
"Some people play the game of defense, and they're just playing it. Some people understand all the reasons for what everybody is doing out there. Darren really understands it, and that's what makes him unique. He understands the defense and the offense. A lot of people don't have that mindset."
Sharper, 33, said the one thing he thinks he has most in common with those all-time greats is his longevity.
He hasn't missed a game since 2005, and he has missed only 10 games since he was drafted by Green Bay in the second round out of William & Mary in 1997. He earned his lone Super Bowl ring that season as a backup, then became a full-time starter in his second season.
"That's what allows me to kind of get up there with those guys as far as statistical numbers, " Sharper said. "And I think that's the main thing that I'm proud of -- playing at a high level for a number of years, consistently."
Lott, who played cornerback and safety in his 15-year Hall of Fame career spent mostly with the San Francisco 49ers, is now a successful businessman in northern California.
He met with the Saints this summer when they traveled to play Oakland in the preseason and spent some one-on-one time with Sharper, offering pep talks that resonated with the veteran.
Lott provided one of the Saints' motivational slogans for this year: "Smell Greatness." And Sharper said Lott encouraged him to enjoy every practice and every game as if he were a rookie all over again.
"What I remember from that talk is that sometimes you don't see the greatness that other people see in you, " Lott said. "I think Darren Sharper has greatness written all over him. You can see it. You can smell it.
"And what you're seeing today when you watch him is he's elevated his emotion and his passion for playing the game. Not everyone owns that."
Clearly, Sharper also has been revitalized by his union with Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams -- something he, Woodson, Lott and Shanle all pointed to as a perfect match.
Williams' aggressive, attacking style puts pressure on quarterbacks, and he allows Sharper to be just as aggressive, attacking on the back end of the defense, going after balls as if he's the intended target.
Williams is the first to admit that Sharper has the kind of instincts that can't be taught. But he's more than happy to exploit them.
"Coach Williams allows me to trust my instincts and allows me to just play. He doesn't put any handcuffs on me, " said Sharper, who has often talked about the limitations he felt in Minnesota's effective but strict Cover 2 scheme. "It's always within the scheme (here), but our scheme is so much to my liking and it fits me so well, it really allows me to be productive.
"In this system, I'm allowed to move around so much and play so many different parts of the football field, it's kind of hard to peg, not just myself but any of our defenders, on where they're going to be. So a lot of times you're able to catch teams by surprise, and when they don't think you're going to be somewhere, then you're there. Next thing you know, big play."
The results have been remarkable for the Saints, who used to get burned by the deep ball, but now almost dares teams to throw it.
Now, Shanle said, when the ball is in the air, you don't have "that lump in your throat."
"For the guys who have been here a long time, to feel that security blanket back there is huge, " Shanle said. "Because we've lost, I don't know how many games we've lost with the deep balls. And with him, you're not only feeling like, 'They're not going to get a deep ball on us, but he's going to intercept the ball and get a nice return.'
"There probably are guys who read a quarterback well, but they don't trust their instincts enough to pull the trigger like he does."
Sharper, who has notebooks full of scouting reports he's accumulated on quarterbacks and receivers, agreed.
"A lot of people prepare themselves and study, but once the game comes and things are happening so quick, they don't trust what they study or trust what they see, " Sharper said. "I have no problem believing what I see, and I'm going to go get it."
Thanks to those touchdown returns, and thanks even more to the Saints' 6-0 start, Sharper is probably getting as much attention and recognition now as he has at any point in his career.
He was selected the NFC's Defensive Player of the Month earlier this week, and he's often mentioned as a leading candidate for the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year honor.
That's not bad for a guy who sat around for a few weeks on the free-agent market in the spring because of concerns that he was slowing down, before the Saints stole him with a one-year, $1.7 million deal.
But Sharper said there's only one accolade that he's interested in at this point of his career -- the one that led him to sign with New Orleans in the first place.
"From playing so long, my career kind of speaks for itself. So it's one of those things where when you get to a certain point in your career you don't have to prove anything else, " Sharper said. "The only thing I want to prove to myself is that I can win a Super Bowl ring. That's the main question I have, and that's why I came here."

Darren Sharper's career numbers rank with those of the best defensive backs in NFL history | New Orleans Saints Central - - NOLA.com

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Old 11-01-2009, 08:59 PM   #2
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Re: Darren Sharper's career numbers rank with those of the best defensive backs in NFL history

great article. im loving darren sharper indeed one of our best FA pick ups of all time..
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Old 11-02-2009, 05:43 PM   #3
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Re: Darren Sharper's career numbers rank with those of the best defensive backs in NFL history

Originally Posted by jn671 View Post
great article. im loving darren sharper indeed one of our best FA pick ups of all time..
He is arguably one of the best...Drew has to be the best in my humble opinion. He does have a knack for being around the ball...he almost seems intuitive, I know he is a film rat like Drew.
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Old 11-02-2009, 06:38 PM   #4
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Re: Darren Sharper's career numbers rank with those of the best defensive backs in NFL history

I was previously a Packers fan and Darren Sharper was among my favorite players there. He went to the Vikes and I of course did not appreciate him much, now that I have gone onto greener pastures with being a solid Saints fan (now my #1 team, was #2), the guy is again one of my favorites, I went to the mall today to pick up a Saints Sharper jersey, they didnt have any so I bought a beastly Saints jersey! Hope our boy Sharper tears it up tonight and destroys the birds with picks galore!

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