New Orleans Saints safety Darren Sharper 'close to 100 percent', ready to return
TAMPA, FLA. – A day - but not necessarily THE Day - of reckoning is upon veteran All-Pro free safety Darren Sharper, the biggest “thief’’ on the New Orleans Saints’ ball-hawking defensive unit a year ago.
Along with veteran linebacker Clint Ingram, Sharper is eligible to come off the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list at the start of business Monday, according to NFL rules that govern the PUP designation.
Saints clear Sharper for return to practice
Neither Sharper nor Ingram were able to practice during the offseason, training camp and the first six weeks of the NFL regular season while recovering from micro-fracture knee surgery.
But that could change beginning Monday, though team officials have given no indication that either is ready to be medically cleared to begin practicing. Both players must pass a physical before being cleared to practice.
On Wednesday, Saints Coach Sean Payton would only say: “We’ll see.’’
Sharper, who turns 35 on Nov. 3, believes he is ready and he definitely sounds willing and able. He is expected to workout for Saints Secondary Coach Dennis Allen on Monday morning and meet later with team officials to determine the course of action.
“That’s the plan,’’ Sharper said via text message Sunday prior to the start of the Saints-Tampa Bay Buccaneers game at Raymond James Stadium. “I’m as close to 100 percent as you can be eight months after surgery and can definitely pass the physical.’’
Last week, Sharper sounded just as confident when addressing his situation with reporters in New Orleans.
“Every week, I’m getting better,’’ Sharper said. “This sideline watching and part-time coaching, it’s good to be a part of it. But I want that football. I’m looking forward to getting back on the field and helping the team out.’’
Though the Saints defense has played well without Sharper, it is abundantly clear that it misses his play-making ability.
Through the first five games, Gregg Williams’ defensive unit is credited with five turnovers. Through the first five games in 2009, Sharper alone had five interceptions, two of which he had returned for touchdowns.
Overall, Sharper tied for the NFL lead in both interceptions (9) and INTs returned for touchdowns (3).
When Sharper returns to active status, he will lead all active NFL players and is tied for sixth all-time with 63 interceptions in the regular season.
As expected, just the thought of his return has created quite a stir inside Who Dat Nation.
It should be noted that there are no guarantees either player will return to the active roster. Each could be waived outright or placed on season-ending injured reserve during this three-week period (see PUP rules).
“Talking to people around the town, I’m hearing that type of stuff,’’ he said. “(But) I’m just a piece of the puzzle. I think I can bring some playmaking ability. If I can just help out and be consistent and play well and do the things that I’ve done in the past, I think that will help out.
“But in no way, shape or form am I a savior. This team is good enough, and we’re going to be good enough to accomplish our goals but I think I can add something.’’
How soon? How often? And how much?
“I hope I can do the things I did last year,’’ Sharper said. “That’s always the goal and that’s why I continue to do my work and my rehab so that I can come back and kind of hit the ground running.
“I haven’t put a helmet on since the Super Bowl, so there are going to be some things that I have to get used to. But, I’ve played for a long time so I think that adjustment period and transition period can come a lot quicker than longer.’’
Hopefully there is a way we can get both sharper and Jenkins on the field at the same time, I like what i'm seeing from Jenkins, but I would love to have that ball hawk back there again, he brings an awesome swagger!
yea, i can't wait to see him back. along with the rest of the players that are missing.
Sharper is well missed in our secondary.
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