Returning Sharpe dumps the trash Sharpe will take out the trash

Football: Normally a man of many words, the Ravens' tight end has decided to stem the vocal flow against his old teammates in Denver.

September 27, 2001|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Shannon Sharpe's return to Denver on Sunday has the makings of a historic day.

Within reach of the NFL's all-time record for receiving yardage by a tight end, Sharpe may set a more remarkable personal record - for silence.

Surrounded by a captivated media audience, the usually outspoken Sharpe tried to downplay his first trip back to the city where the perennial Pro Bowl tight end won back-to-back Super Bowls.

The thought of breathing Denver's thin air again brought feelings of nostalgia. The reality of the Ravens' situation heading there begged his focus.

Coming off a mistake-filled loss to the Bengals, the Ravens (1-1) are looking to rebound in Denver, where the unbeaten Broncos (2-0) have won 71 percent of their home games since 1969. For that reason, Sharpe has vowed to give his old teammates the silent treatment.

"I might get a few potshots here and there, but I'm really concentrating on my job now," Sharpe said. "We're in a situation where I don't want to be distracting to my teammates."

This is the same Sharpe who proclaimed before last year's wild-card game that he was the "CEO of trash talk" and that Denver linebacker Bill Romanowski was "only vice president."

This is the same Sharpe who rubbed in the Super Bowl victory to New York Giants linebacker Jessie Armstead in the preseason finale, pointing to his ring finger while in the huddle.

Sharpe, though, has resisted sparking any debates with the Broncos. In fact, he wanted to diffuse any emotional storylines from his painful free-agent divorce in 1999.

"Obviously, it's going to be strange," he said, "but I don't think it's going to be as strange if we were playing in the old Mile High."

The Broncos have since moved to new Invesco Field at Mile High, but Sharpe's fingerprints are still all over the franchise. Playing in Denver from 1990 to 1999, he holds the team's records for career receptions and receiving yards.

Now, after helping knock the Broncos out of the playoffs last year with a 58-yard touchdown catch, he has gone from hero to enemy.

"For the most part, while I was there, those 75,000 fans were cheering for me," Sharpe said. "Now, all of a sudden, I catch a pass or do something good, they're going to boo me. That's going to be strange. But I like boos, too."

The consensus from the Broncos is that Sharpe will receive a warm greeting in pregame introductions.

"He's one of the big reasons we were able to win a couple of Super Bowls," Denver coach Mike Shanahan said. "Obviously, he's done a lot for this organization, this franchise. I think that the fans will give him the respect that he deserves. But once that ball is snapped, he's the opposition, and obviously we'll play accordingly."

Sharpe hasn't flashed his new Super Bowl ring to any of his former teammates, but he did get a chance to talk to them in the offseason.

"They called me lucky," Sharpe said. "I leave one team, go to another and win the Super Bowl. Sometimes, it's better to be lucky than good."

But the notion that Sharpe will bite his tongue didn't surprise Romanowski, who knocked helmets with him in last year's playoff game.

"We really didn't say very much," Romanowski said. "He's definitely not going to get into my head by saying anything. I kind of felt the same."

Romanowski and Shanahan even paid the highest compliments to Sharpe.

"He will definitely go down as one of the best ever," Romanowski said.

"I think he's the best of all time," added Shanahan.

Sharpe, 34, is backing up those statements by closing in on the two NFL records for tight ends held by Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' senior vice president of football operations. Although Sharpe is 32 catches from the one mark, he is only 70 yards shy of the career yardage record.

When asked about the chances that the Broncos might stop Sunday's game if he surpasses 70 yards receiving, Sharpe shook his head and grinned.

"I don't want them to stop the game," he said. "I want to keep going because if I've got 70 yards that means I'm doing pretty good. I'm hot and on a roll."

Sharpe then said, jokingly, "I'd like to break the other one, get about 32 catches. That would be really special."

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Denver Broncos

Site: Invesco Field at Mile High, Denver

When: Sunday, 4:15 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line: Broncos by 4 1/2

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