Heap awaits next reunion with mentor Sharpe


Ex-Raven leads tight ends in AFC with 29 receptions

Pro Football

October 23, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

When they were teammates, tight end Shannon Sharpe didn't hesitate to remind Todd Heap of his status.

"He use to call me rook," said Heap, who was a rookie in Sharpe's last season with the Ravens in 2001. "Now, maybe he'll call me Pro Bowler."

Sharpe will reunite for the second straight season with his one-time protege Heap when the Ravens play host to the Broncos on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

Heap made his first Pro Bowl last season after leading the Ravens with 69 receptions for 836 yards. Sharpe, who re-signed with the Broncos once the Ravens terminated his contract after the 2001 season, has been to eight Pro Bowls but was not selected last year.

"I told him the easiest thing you can ever do is make one Pro Bowl," said Sharpe, 35. "If you want to impress people, you go back year after year, after teams know what you can do and gear up to try and stop you. And you are still able to go out there and get your catches, get your yards and help your team win football games."

Sharpe, in his 14th season, imparted that wisdom on Heap when they were neighbors in the Ravens' locker room.

It was not the type of advice the candid Sharpe tells any player.

"I saw a guy that had an awful lot of ability," Sharpe said. "He wanted to be good and wanted to learn. So that really made my job a lot easier as far as telling him how to approach the game, how to study film and work on the field.

"When I watch him on film, I see myself. He's playing phenomenal."

Heap is coming off his best game of the season in the Ravens' loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Heap had seven receptions for 129 yards, including one in which he was triple-teamed and had to reach around a defender to make the catch.

"He always had advice for me as far as football, non-football things," Heap said of Sharpe. "He was just a fun all-around guy. I consider him one of my friends and a mentor also."

As for Sharpe, he is making one last Pro Bowl bid. Sharpe leads all AFC tight ends with 29 catches, four for touchdowns. His 336 receiving yards total is second behind Tony Gonzalez's 346.

"We've been saying, `Shannon, at this point in his career,' for the last nine years," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "So I don't know how long that guy can go. He's just a true professional and true warrior."

R. Johnson ready to return

Receiver Ron Johnson targeted Sunday's game for his return, and after practicing yesterday, he appears to be on pace.

Johnson has missed the past two games after having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee during the bye week.

"It feels a lot better now," said Johnson, who is listed as probable on the injury report. "It's a little pain but I dealt with that for six weeks before with the injury anyway. So it's not that big of a deal."

Marcus Robinson (leg, probable), Jamal Lewis (shoulder, probable), Gary Baxter (knee, probable), Bennie Anderson (shoulder, probable), Tom Knight (leg, questionable) and Kyle Boller (shoulder, questionable) all practiced.

At the movies

The Ravens played host to volunteers from Baltimore and surrounding communities in a special screening of the new movie Radio in Owings Mills.

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