Sharpers have edge on defense

Jamie, Darren each among league's elite

October 12, 2001|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

In searching for a standout football moment involving himself and his brother Darren, Jamie Sharper remembers the hit that did not happen.

It was back in college when Jamie, older by a year, was at Virginia, and Darren was at William & Mary. Darren was returning a punt down the sideline when he came face-to-face with Jamie, a key member of the Cavaliers' punt team.

"He jumped out of bounds right before I had a chance to hit him," Jamie Sharper, 26, said. "Then he started talking junk. He saw me coming and stepped out of bounds, then started talking junk. The ref was about to throw a flag, but somebody told him we were brothers, so he let it go."

It was Jamie, though, according to Darren, who has initiated the trash-talking this week over the phone. The subject - which defense will be more dominant when Jamie's Ravens face Darren's Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Lambeau Field.

The Ravens are No. 1 in the NFL in total defense - unseating the Packers - after a dominant showing against Tennessee on Sunday. The Packers lead the NFC in total defense and have not allowed more than 14 points in any of their four games.

"For our defenses to be playing at such a high level on a playoff pace, it's especially exciting," Darren Sharper said. "Plus, we're both at the pinnacle of our careers."

By "we," Darren was including his brother in the same category as one of the best at his respective position. Darren led the NFL with nine interceptions last season at free safety, and recorded two in the Packers' season opener this year. Jamie, meanwhile, is coming off his best overall season, and is tied for second on the team with Corey Harris in tackles (31).

About 30 family members will make the trip from Atlanta, Chicago and Virginia to see the brothers on Sunday. Jamie said their parents will root for whichever defense is on the field.

"They just want to see both brothers do well," he said. "It's a happy game for them because they don't have to travel as much. Sometimes in college, they use to travel to William & Mary and watch Darren play, then come up to a 4 o'clock game and watch me. So now, they get to see both brothers play on the same field, and that is [a] good thing."

They were both drafted in the second round in 1997, with Jamie going first at No. 34. The brothers played each other twice in college and once as professionals in 1998, which ended in a 28-10 Packers win at Lambeau. Back then, Darren was a free safety and part-time cornerback, good enough to switch back and forth through the season.

Jamie, who has recorded back-to-back 100-tackle seasons, has started all but one game in his career at weak-side linebacker. Both have made strides at their positions, leading to lucrative off-season contracts earlier this year.

"The main correlation is that we're both pretty smart ball players," Jamie Sharper said. "The longer we are in a system, the better we are going to play. The system they put in for him last year allowed him to do more things, and that allowed him to get to the Pro Bowl."

Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe, who will draw Darren on some pass coverage responsibilities Sunday, anointed him the best safety in the league.

"I told Jamie don't go and give him any of my secrets," Sharpe said.

"He was a Pro Bowler last year," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "He is a complete player because he is physical, but can also cover you. So many times you have guys who are great cover guys, maybe not as physical. Some guys are physical, like an extra linebacker in the box, but are a little limited in coverage. He is able to bridge both."

There was a time when the brothers lined up in the same backfield. Jamie Sharper was a senior at Hermitage High School in Richmond Va. when his brother, then a junior, took over at quarterback.

As it is often in football, the quarterback got all the headlines.

"He was the quarterback, and I was the running back," Jamie Sharper said. "Pretty much the offense my senior year was him handing the ball to me. I remember this one game we were playing this good team, John Marshall, and I had a 60-yard run down to the 1-yard line. Coach called for me to go in for a 1-yard plunge. But for some reason, Darren couldn't get the ball to me. I look up and he's running around along the sideline. In the paper the next day, it's all about his touchdown. I always get on him about how he took the glory away from me."

Now, the two share in the glory as one of the most prolific brother tandems in the league.

"The main thing is to see who has the best defense," Jamie Sharper said. "We know we proved we had the better defense last year, but they were up there at the top of the rankings at the beginning of this season. But now, we've regained our spot."

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Green Bay Packers

Site: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis.

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

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

Line: Ravens by 1

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