Darren Sharper could see the writing on the locker room walls. As his salary cap-strapped Green Bay Packers had to make choices on who would stay and who would go, he wasn't surprised to see himself going.
And, to hear him tell it, he doesn't sound too disappointed about the outcome. His quick move from the Packers to the land of the Vikings seemed like an easy choice for him, even if it might be hard for fans to fathom such a move from division rivals.
All he did was look at how close he felt the Vikings were to winning a championship, and after his short analysis he was sold. He says it wasn't hard for him to admit the Vikings are closer even though he came from the rival Packers.
"No, it's not because it's about winning. It's the same thing for organizations when they make decisions on who they're going to keep and not keep. It all comes down to what is going to help them and what they think is going to allow them to win. That's where my decision came in," he told Viking Update. "Besides the contract situation – after that it was just: who's going to have a chance to win so I could get a Super Bowl ring."
He admitted to receiving a bit of good-natured razzing from his new teammates in purple "because I got their number of few times," but the more personal barbs came from his former teammates.
"When I first signed, they (his former teammates) were like, ‘How could you go to the enemy.' But they understand it's a business and they know how it is," Sharper said. "They were just worried about what I was going to do to them this year. They've seen what I did in practice when we went against the first offense, so that's the main thing I think they're going to worry about."
Sharper himself doesn't seem worried about too much. The transition from Green Bay to Minnesota has been relatively easy, he says.
"The main thing that helped me out is that we've got a lot of good guys on the team. I was surprised at how close-knit this team is, as far as on the field and also off the field," he said. "That made the transition easier. You know there is going to be some adjustment as far as learning a new scheme and learning new teammates."
He knew Chuck Knox, Jr., the Vikings' coverage coach, from Knox's coaching days in Green Bay.
Injuries may have been part of the reason the Packers decided Sharper had to be among those released or allowed to sign elsewhere in their salary purge.
The question among those closely following the Packers is whether Sharper was coming to the end of his most productive days in the league. After 36 career interceptions, including 22 in a three-year stretch – were his recent injuries a temporary thing or a portent to the decline of an impressive career?
Sharper says he isn't any slower than when he first entered the league in 1997, but his body is slower to recover.
"When you get banging around the game, you're not going to be like when you first came into the league (like) a 21- or 22-year old. I think when I play I'm moving at the same speed," he said. "The only thing now is getting out there and recovering – the recovery factor is the only thing that's a difference. You don't recover as quick when you're getting close to 30.
"I think I see the game better, but I think I move as well as I did when I was young because I keep my body in great condition. I think that's what separates me from guys who are in the eighth or ninth year who might see the slowdown. I think the fact that I prepare and condition my body allows me to move at the same pace as I did when I was a young guy."
Despite his quest to maintain a youthful body, the safety has been working on sharpening his post-football skills for a career in communications. During the offseason he missed out on a few Vikings practices in order to provide color commentary on broadcasts for two NFL Europe games, one in which Hamburg played Amsterdam, then Amsterdam versus Cologne.
"It was a good experience. You learn a lot of things," he said. "That's what I want to do once I stop playing football, do the broadcasting thing. … The more I can do it, the better I think I'll be once I retire."
He also commentated on broadcasts of high school games in the Green Bay area, and wants to get involved in broadcasting high school games in Minnesota as well.
"It's a little different from the NFL, covering that," he said. "But it definitely helped me out when I went to cover Europe."
He hopes he won't need that experience anytime soon, and if his body allows him to keep on playing in the NFL well into the future, then that's where his desire still lies. He trains in Louisiana with speed coach Tom Shaw in June and July so he can go into training camp concentrating on the plays instead of worrying about fatigue.
"Hopefully that will work for me again this year so I can keep going for another 10 years. We'll see," he said with a laugh. "That might be kind of a reach."
But he's convinced his decision to leave Green Bay for Minnesota wasn't "a reach." He may not have had much choice in accepting his release from the Packers, but he's sure he upgraded teams, especially on defense.
"We have more talent here," he said. "Much more talent."
Adjustment Easy For Sharper
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