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Saints defensive back Sharper makes move

| Thursday, Jan. 21, 2010

METAIRIE, La. — Darren Sharper loves a good story, even more so when it involves him.

The NFL's active interception king is on the cusp of only the second Super Bowl appearance of his 13-year career. To get there, his Saints must beat Minnesota, the team that let him go after last season, and Brett Favre, who was once Sharper's teammate, then a rival, and still a friend.

He wouldn't want it any other way.

"You know, you get to Chapter 9 in a 10-chapter book, to make that ending a little bit more of an exciting end, you want to have some great storylines, and this is a good one because of the relationships," Sharper said Wednesday at the Saints' suburban New Orleans training center. "You know, me playing (against) my former team, Brett returning — you could say it's his last hurrah.

"It just makes you not want to fold that book up in Chapter 5. You want to continue to read it until the end and that ending hopefully will be a good ending for us."

The beginning of Sharper's story in the NFL dates back to 1997, when he entered the league with Green Bay. He went to his only Super Bowl in his rookie year, when the Packers lost to Denver. Favre was his teammate for eight years, then Sharper left for division rival Minnesota, facing Favre twice a year for three seasons and intercepting him once in 2006.

It appeared, however, that Sharper was not a part of Minnesota's plans in 2009. The Vikings had a couple of good young safeties in Tyrell Jones and Madieu Williams.

"That was an easy transition for them," Sharper said.

Sharper was interested in staying in Minnesota, a team he thought would be a contender, but the Vikings let him go in free agency after he had only one interception in 2008.

The Saints, by contrast, were looking for a savvy veteran to stabilize a defensive backfield that had been prone to giving up big plays. New Orleans already had the league's top offense, led by Drew Brees, but wound up only 8-8 last season, losing five games by three or fewer points in part because of defensive blunders.

Sharper, who turned 34 in November, made an immediate difference, proving that his paltry interception total a season earlier was not a sign of deteriorating skills. Rather, Shaper has his best season in New Orleans, intercepting nine passes and returning three for touchdowns. His career interception total stands at 63, tied with retired San Francisco safety Ronnie Lott.

Sharper also set an NFL record for most interception return yards in a season with 376.

"Physically, he looks as good as he's ever looked," Favre said. "But his instincts, those are the things you can't coach. He makes a lot of plays. The thought is from people when you play a guy like Sharp is you can trick him to get big plays.

"In all honesty, you really don't see that this year."

Notes: TE Jeremy Shockey (right knee), WR Robert Meachem (left ankle) and CB Malcom Jenkins (hamstring) did not practice yesterday. Coach Sean Payton said he was optimistic they would be ready to play by Sunday.

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