Ex-Bronco Sharp Returns to Mile HighDAVID GINSBURG , Associated Press
Sep. 26, 2001 3:07 PM ET
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) _ Shannon Sharpe expects a warm reception from appreciative Denver Broncos fans during pregame introductions Sunday.
Once the game starts, however, the Baltimore Ravens tight end expects the crowd to treat him like any other foe.
``Maybe when I come out there, they'll cheer. But when I do something good, they'll boo. That's what fans are supposed to do,'' Sharpe said Wednesday.
Sharpe played 10 seasons with the Broncos, appearing in seven Pro Bowls and helping Denver win two Super Bowls. But after the 1999 season he and the Broncos parted ways, and Sharpe quickly latched on with the Ravens.
``From a salary cap standpoint, what the Ravens were able to give me, the Broncos weren't able to do that,'' Sharpe said. ``I totally understand. No hard feelings. I had 10 great years there and now I love my time here.''
Sharpe figures everyone benefitted from the switch.
``They're happy with their decision and I'm very, very happy with mine,'' he said. ``It was time for me to move on, and it was time for them to look at some of the younger tight ends.''
Sharpe still has the respect of his former teammates, many of whom still say he's as good as any tight end to play the game.
``He will definitely go down as one of the best ever,'' Broncos linebacker Bill Romanowski said.
``I think he's the best of all time,'' Denver coach Mike Shanahan said.
Sharpe is closing in on two NFL records for tight ends. He's 32 catches and 70 yards short of breaking the career marks held by Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome, now the Ravens executive vice president of player personnel and the man responsible for bringing Sharpe to Baltimore.
Asked if he thought the Broncos might stop Sunday's game if he amasses 70 yards receiving, Sharpe grinned and said, ``I don't want them to stop the game. 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.''
He then kiddingly added, ``I'd like to break the other one, get about 32 catches. That would be really special.''
Regardless of how he performs, Sharpe expects it to be a one of a kind afternoon.
``Obviously it's going to be strange, but I don't think it's going to be as strange if we were playing in the Old Mile High (Stadium),'' he said. ``I'm not going to know what it's like to walk out on the visitor's side, compared to the home side.
``But it's still going to be strange. For the most part, while I was there, those 75,000 fans were cheering for me. Now I catch a pass or do something good, they're going to boo me.''
Sharpe turned a deflected pass into a 58-yard touchdown in Baltimore's 21-3 wild-card victory over the Broncos last January in Baltimore.
``They called me lucky. I leave one team, go to another and win the Super Bowl,'' Sharpe said. ``Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.''
Sharpe is both. He had the last laugh a season ago, but Denver appears ready to mount a drive to the Super Bowl while Baltimore is coming off a 21-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in which quarterback Elvis Grbac was forced to throw 63 passes.
``I'd like to think we're going to come out and make a better showing this week. We have to run the football,'' Sharpe said. ``As well as Elvis can throw the football, we're asking an awful lot asking him to throw the ball 60, 70 times. You can win games like that, but you can't win championships.''
When he walks onto the field Sunday, Sharpe will likely be reminded that he has yet to pay up on a bet that Denver's Keith Burns could not get his body fat under 10 percent before the 2000 season.
Burns came in at 9.3 percent, putting him in line for a Mercedes.
``I didn't say what kind, and I didn't say what shape it was going to be in,'' Sharpe said. ``Eventually he will get the car, but not if he keeps harassing me.''