Sharper relishes shot at Ravens, McAlister called

When Jamie Sharper was tackling, sacking and involved in pass coverage for the Baltimore Ravens, the completeness of his game was hidden somewhat behind two considerable shadows. Directly to the outside linebacker's left and right stood All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis and sack artist Peter Boulware.

Sharper was an integral cog for the Ravens' record-setting defense during the Super Bowl campaign and was deemed valuable enough by management for Baltimore to finance his return for another postseason run.

The understanding for all involved in the deal was that Sharper, along with return specialist Jermaine Lewis, would eventually join the Houston Texans (4-9) in the expansion draft to grant the Ravens some salary cap relief.

"I looked at it as a possibility because of the salary cap constraints of the Ravens," said Sharper, the Texans' inside linebacker preparing to face his old team on Sunday at Reliant Stadium along with Lewis. "I knew I would get another year in and try to get another championship ring. I knew I was probably going to go down to Houston and start another franchise.

"It's just like it was in 1997 in Baltimore. Now, I have five or six years under my belt and have to help build this team a little quicker."

In Sunday's encounter in Houston, Sharper and his teammates hold a potential spoiler role against Baltimore (6-7), which still carries slim playoff hopes.

Now, Sharper is still part of a stingy defense, a Texans unit that manufactured a 24-6 upset win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday despite their teammates gaining just three first downs and 47 yards of total offense.

The Texans scored twice on defensive touchdowns and weathered a storm of 422 yards on 107 plays against the first-place Steelers. Sharper more than did his part with 13 tackles, two sacks and four quarterback pressures.

"Our offense, of course, didn't do anything. It was all on the defense," Sharper said. "It was definitely an effort I'll look back at for the rest of my life."

Through 13 starts for the Lone Star state's newest professional franchise, Sharper ranks second on the Texans with 144 tackles to go along with 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

"Jamie's been a real integral part of our defense," Texans coach Dom Capers said. "He's a bright guy. He prepares well. The fact that he had been on successful teams, a Baltimore team that had won a Super Bowl, he's got that credibility.

"He's been very productive."

In Capers' aggressive 3-4 scheme, the inside linebackers blitz regularly, giving Sharper has more opportunities than he did in Baltimore to make an impact. As a Raven, Sharper was often forced to play a cerebral, cautious style encouraged by former defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis.

 "It's definitely a fun defense to play in," Sharper said.

This is Sharper's sixth season in the NFL after starring at the University of Virginia. Ever since the 6-foot-3, 240-pounder joined the Texans, he's been a factor with his uncommon speed and agility for a player of his dimensions.

In a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Sharper had a career-high 19 tackles and recovered a Donovan McNabb fumble. In an upset of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sharper sacked Mark Brunell twice.

The chief differences between his Texas experience and playing for the Ravens is this: Sharper doesn't win as much, and he misses some of the colorful personalities that populate the Baltimore locker room.

 He doesn't miss those shadows, though.

"I think it was great to play in Baltimore with that great defense and be able to get a championship ring," Sharper said. "I think coming down to Houston I'm trying to prove the kind of player I am on my own coming into a brand-new team and a brand-new defense. "I'm making plays even more than I did in Baltimore. The main thing is making a name for myself and making a name for the Houston Texans in the NFL. I think we've shown a lot of promise."

NOTES: New Orleans Saints offensive tackle Kyle Turley has threatened to sue the NFL if Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister isn't fined and suspended for ripping off and tossing the helmet of Saints wideout Donte' Stallworth in Sunday's game.

The Ravens don't think much of Turley's comments.

Last year, Turley was fined $25,000 by the league and ordered to undergo anger management training following an incident where he launched the helmet of New York Jets safety Damien Robinson.

Turley wants McAlister to face similar sanctions, more than the personal foul he was assessed that set up a Saints touchdown. McAlister said he hadn't heard from the league as of Wednesday afternoon, but he expects to be fined.

The league will likely make an official announcement today with a probable fine ranging between $5,000 and $15,000.

"Chris knows he was wrong," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "I assume there will be a fine. It was an action that was inappropriate. I don't know if we need to have another lawsuit, but I can't control that."

McAlister doesn't appreciate having his name associated with Turley, whom he called crazy.

"The difference is he's a repeat offender," McAlister said. "That's been the nature of his characteristics for a while now. For me, it's the first time it happened. That was the last time."

The Ravens' injury report listed cornerback Tom Knight (leg) as doubtful and quarterback Chris Redman (back) as questionable. Center Mike Flynn (leg), cornerback Chris McAlister (shoulder) and safety Raymond Perryman (back) were all listed as probable. The Texans' injury report included Lewis (ankle) on the doubtful list with wide receiver Atnaf Harris (hip) and offensive tackle Ryan Young (knee) as questionable.

Although the Ravens designate Redman as their backup behind veteran Jeff Blake, Billick said he's reluctant to use him because the quarterback still doesn't have enough flexibility to touch his toes.

Because of the ice storm that struck the area, the Ravens practiced in the McDonogh gymnasium Wednesday morning. Billick said it was a productive workout.


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