Sharper hoping big game isn't super send-off, too

Linebacker's Ravens stay might end as free agent


January 28, 2001|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

TAMPA, Fla. - Super Bowl XXXV won't simply mark the end of the season for linebacker Jamie Sharper tonight, it could also mean the end of his four-year Ravens career.

Sharper is one of 14 Ravens who will become unrestricted free agents this off-season. Given the stellar season Sharper had and the Ravens' tight salary-cap situation, the team may be unable to re-sign him.

"Of course I want to stay with the Ravens," Sharper said, "but I don't have a preference about which team I want to go to [if he leaves]. I want to play with the Ravens because I've been here for four years. All I know is Baltimore."

Sharper is one of three 1997 draft picks about to wade into free agency, along with center Jeff Mitchell and strong safety Kim Herring. Another prominent free agent-to-be is quarterback Trent Dilfer, who signed a one-year contract worth $1 million and then won 10 of 11 starts after replacing Tony Banks.

Mitchell says he's contemplated the roster alterations that are certain to happen after the Super Bowl.

"I started thinking about that before the first playoff game, when [coach] Brian [Billick] said, `This is the last time you'll be with this group of guys,' " he said. "It's not so much my situation, as it is everybody, especially when you have a team this successful. It's going to be hard to keep them together.

"I do really want to stay here. If there's any anxiety, that's the root of it."

Mitchell, a fifth-round pick, and Sharper, a second-rounder, both earned $1.027 million this season.

In 19 games overall, Sharper had his best pro season with six forced fumbles, two interceptions and two sacks (both in the playoffs). The interceptions were his first since his rookie year.

"If I keep doing what I've been doing, playing well, then everything will take care of itself," he said. "I don't worry about it."

Interviews for M. Lewis

Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis is expected to interview for the vacant head-coaching jobs in Buffalo and Cleveland tomorrow and Tuesday, respectively.

"That's our preferred scheduling, although nothing is confirmed," said Ray Anderson, Lewis' Atlanta-based agent. "He and I will meet after the game and have our thoughts on how we might want to proceed."

NFL rules prohibit a team from contacting a coach from another team whose season has not ended.

Anderson said Lewis would not conduct any interviews immediately after Super Bowl XXXV tonight.

The Bills and Browns have been given permission from the Ravens to interview Lewis.

Final preparations

The Ravens and Giants each held walk-throughs at Raymond James Stadium yesterday, as preparations for tonight's game came to a close.

After the Giants' morning session, offensive tackle Lomas Brown and defensive tackle Keith Hamilton made short speeches.

"I picked the most senior guy on the offense and the most senior guy on defense, the guys who had been in the league the longest," said New York coach Jim Fassel. "It was kind of hard to pick the final guy. Everybody has their moments, so I just picked the senior guys."

Last shot for Woodson?

Ravens safety Rod Woodson had his cameo, but now he wants to become a featured part of a Super Bowl.

Woodson had a limited role in the Pittsburgh Steelers' 27-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX in 1996, returning from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the opener that season. But Woodson, who is in his 14th season, isn't resigned that this will be his last shot at winning a Super Bowl.

"You never know," Woodson said. "You don't know what your fate is and you never know how many opportunities you are going to have. I think I may appreciate it a little more because I'm a little older. You remember things as you get older because I'm not going to be playing that much longer."

Wild rise for Dixon

If Ron Dixon wins the Most Valuable Player in tonight's Super Bowl XXXV against the Ravens, the Giants' return specialist and backup wide receiver wouldn't necessarily take the 90-mile drive to Disney World.

Dixon's fairy tale has already come true.

A little more than three years ago, Dixon was back home in Wildwood, Fla., pumping gas and digging ditches. His dreams of playing college football in his home state were dashed by poor grades. He had left West Georgia Junior College after two semesters.

"When I couldn't get into Florida, Florida State or Miami, my crutch was going to Central Florida," Dixon said last week. "When I couldn't get into UCF, my crutch was going to junior college. I ran out of crutches."

It was during his time back home that Dixon wrote a note to himself and put it into his Bible. It said that he wanted to get back to school, play football and get drafted by an NFL team no lower than the third round.

"My mother said I better be rich, because I wouldn't be able to work a 9-to-5 job," he said.

Dixon's mother knew best. Her son returned to Lambuth College, an NAIA school in Tennessee. It was there he caught the attention of Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi, who drafted Dixon in the third round last spring.

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