There is considerable doubt about whether five-time Pro Bowl free safety Darren Sharper will be back in New Orleans for a third season in 2011. What doesn't seem to be in doubt is that Sharper, who was relegated to backup status in 2010, first by his recovery from a late-season 2010 knee injury and then by the emergence of Malcolm Jenkins as the starter, definitely wants to play at least one more campaign.
Sharper has rebuffed some concrete offers to move full-time into the media, The Sports Xchange has confirmed, and is preparing as if he'll play somewhere in 2011. The 13-year veteran is the league's leading active interceptor, and only five players in history have more than Sharper's 63 thefts. Just one pure safety, all-time leader and Hall of Fame member Paul Krause, has more. Sharper played in only eight games in 2010, the fewest of his career, and the only time he has appeared in fewer than 13 contests. He had just one start, the least since he had none as a rookie in 1997.
But at age 35, Sharper thinks he has enough left in the tank, certainly in terms of football "smarts," to be at least an effective nickel safety for a team, and is especially seeking out a contender.
Former Miami quarterback Pat White, a second-round pick in the 2009 draft, always wanted the chance to be more than just a wildcat novelty, and now he's going to get the chance. White, who dabbled with baseball after the Dolphins admitted their mistake last year and released him, has signed with the Marty Schottenheimer-coached Virginia Destroyers of the UFL.
"It's a chance to show I can do it," White said. To "do it," White won't exactly have to beat out a murderer's row of competitors, with the team's quarterback depth chart including such notables as Chris Greisen, Derek Devine and Dennis Brown.
The Dolphins chose White hoping he would add another dimension, because of his ability to throw the ball, to their Wildcat package. This spring, then-Dolphins vice president Bill Parcells acknowledged the pick was a flawed one, and that the franchise reached in taking White. The team's rationale was just as flawed: Coaches felt they could teach White to be a quarterback first, with all the plays, and a Wildcat guy later. That's not to say White would have been a success if indoctrinated into the Wildcat only, but he was a bit overwhelmed by trying to assimilate the entire playbook.
We'll see if he does any better at a reduced level of competition.
CB Ike Taylor
--There isn't yet quite as much fire as there is smoke in the reports that the Eagles are eyeing pending free agent cornerback Ike Taylor (Pittsburgh) and Bush, if he is released by New Orleans, once the lockout ends. But there are some embers to the reports, and Philadelphia is definitely a team worth watching with the two veterans. Maybe even more so than free agent wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who also has been linked to the Eagles.
--Safety is one of the positions that annually has the greatest volume of movement in free agency, and even with the likelihood of a shortened signing period, that figures to be the case again this year. At least a half-dozen franchises will be attempting to add starting-caliber safeties when free agency begins. And because safeties generally play on special teams, the movement of veterans will be strong again.
Maybe his teammates will be surprised, but there are a lot of veteran Seattle players who feel strongly that pending unrestricted free agent and 12-year veteran Matt Hasselbeck will re-sign with the team. And that includes the man who is the heir apparent to the starting job if Hasselbeck departs, Charlie Whitehurst.
--Best wishes to Indianapolis vice president Craig Kelley, admittedly one of this columnist's closest friends personally and professionally, on his new gig in supervising the Colts' website.
--Good luck, too, to former Florida star, NFL backup quarterback and 1996 Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel, who is about a week into his treatment for Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an auto-immune disorder that attacks the peripheral nerves. We contracted GBS in 2008 and it took nearly two years to get over it. It's a little-known disease - former Bears star William Perry also suffered from it in recent years - but Wuerffel seems to have the patience and the faith needed to battle it.
--For all his brilliance, teams seemed to be scared off by what they assume will be the financial expectations of pending free agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. A few teams that figure to be in the hunt for the former Oakland star are guessing he will have only 2-3 serious suitors.
--Another guy who isn't getting much buzz right now is Tennessee quarterback Vince Young. The former No. 3 pick overall hasn't been released yet, but new Titans coach Mike Munchak confirmed he won't be back, yet there just don't seem to be many potential landing spots. Teams are troubled by Young's perceived lack of maturity, and a few are investigating rumors he may have mishandled his money.
--Arizona coaches want to revamp their linebacker corps and the remaking could begin with the release of veteran Joey Porter once the lockout ends. One guy the Cardinals want to get on the field more is second-year veteran O'Brien Schofield. A fourth-round pick in 2010, Schofield was set back by injuries as a rookie, but flashed some pass-rush ability, and had two sacks in 10 appearances.
--Sources contended that Cincinnati owner Mike Brown is among those balking at some of the terms suggested for the new CBA being negotiated. Brown, it should be recalled, was one of only two owners (Ralph Wilson of Buffalo was the other) who voted against the latest CBA extension in 2006. Turns out his read on a CBA that his brethren decided two years later was a bad deal, was right on the nose.
--Speaking of the Bengals, it's certainly a good sign that tailback Cedric Benson joined the workouts with teammates this week. It's doubtful Benson would have returned to Cincinnati had Bob Bratkowski been retained as offensive coordinator, but there's a decent chance the pending free agent will re-sign now. The Bengals have very little depth at the position and, if quarterback Carson Palmer retires, as he has threatened, the Bengals will need a strong running game to help insulate Andy Dalton, the likely rookie starter.
--The Cleveland Browns are hardly a very deep team, but one area of volume, where the club could look to deal a veteran before the season starts, is tight end. The Browns have Ben Watson, who established a new career-best with 68 catches in 2010; promising third-year veteran Evan Moore, who has solid hands and averaged 20.1 yards on 16 catches; and serviceable vet Alex Smith. Plus the Browns chose Jordan Cameron in the fourth round of the draft. First-year head coach Pat Shurmur, who will serve as his own offensive coordinator, is a smart guy. But he can't use them all and the Browns, even if they get very little in a trade for one of the vets, can't use 'em all.
--As reported here several times in past months, even as some were suggesting his career had been ended by the severe head injuries he suffered last year, Baltimore linebacker Sergio Kindle has been cleared by neurologists to play in 2011. Obviously, the 2010 second-rounder hasn't been involved in contact yet since suffering the injuries after falling down a flight of stairs, but the Ravens' brass is planning as if he'll play this year after missing all of his rookie campaign.
--Father's Day: According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, there have been 189 father-son pairs who have played in the league.
The last word
"He can do almost anything he wants. (But) he doesn't want to do anything. To me, that's the issue. He's one of those guys (where) you walk into a meeting and tell him, 'Put down the phone.' The next day, you have to tell him to put down the phone. The next day, you tell him (again) to put down the phone. You tell him, 'Don't read the newspaper in meetings.' The next day, you have to tell him the same thing. It doesn't stick. It's an everyday thing." - Washington defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, per ESPN radio in St. Louis, on Haynesworth.
Len Pasquarelli is a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange. He has covered the NFL for 33 years and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. His NFL coverage earned recognition as the winner of the McCann Award for distinguished reporting in 2008.