Sharper: Pro Bowl Game For Real

Darren Sharper will be making his fourth appearance in the Pro Bowl Sunday and his second in three years as a Viking. While he admits that the week in Hawaii is about celebrating the 2007 season, once the game kicks off, he and the rest of the players will be all business.

For some of the younger players in the NFL, a trip to the Pro Bowl is a chance to establish themselves among the elite of the NFL. For veteran players, however, the atmosphere is much more laid back and fun. The older players have nothing to prove – they've shown through the years that they have what it takes to be a star player in the league, so getting the call to Hawaii is a reward that, in many cases, can be a long time in coming.

Darren Sharper has been viewed as one of the top safeties in the game for several years, but when he was released by the Packers following the 2004 season, the theory among Packers fans was that, while his salary cap number was a factor in his dismissal, the bigger issue was that his contract was big and the return on the money wasn't going to be there.

Do they still feel that way? Probably not so much. In his eight years with the Packers, Sharper was named to two Pro Bowls. In his three years with the Vikings, he has been named as the Pro Bowl starter twice, including this year.

Sharper, however, doesn't have time for bitterness or asking "what if the Packers had kept him?" For him, the Pro Bowl isn't about playing the game, it's about having fun in the sun and playing a game when all is said and done.

"It's more of a relaxing kind of trip," Sharper said. "They make sure you enjoy yourself, because you have been rewarded for the year that you had and they want to make sure that you're rewarded by having a good time in Hawaii. It's pretty hard not to have a good time in Hawaii."
The week of practices are pretty laid back, but Sharper is ready when things start up for real on Sunday. While the pay for the winning team is more than that of the loser, the money isn't the issue. Sharper said that, regardless of how much fun the players have during the week, once the whistle blows on Sunday and the game begins, it becomes an exhibition in name only.

"The week before the game is more relaxing and letting guys enjoy themselves, enjoy their families and appreciate that season that they had," Sharper said. "But once the game starts, the natural competitiveness of guys makes you want to play hard."

* What can a good season do for you? Ask Packers coach Mike McCarthy. Based on the great season the Packers put together, McCarthy was given a five-year extension through the 2012 season.
* Some wounds run deep. Former Packers G.M. Ron Wolf was quoted in a Milwaukee newspaper last weekend blaming the coaching of Mike Holmgren for the Packers' loss in Super Bowl XXXII. It's been 11 years, Ron. Let it go.
* Jeremy Shockey, who has been reported to actually be upset at the improvement of the Giants offense since he went down to a season-ending knee injury, didn't take part in the Giants parade through through the Valley of Champions in New York City or the rally at the Meadowlands. In fact, he wasn't even on the sidelines during the game. Instead, FOX cameras showed him in a luxury suite throwing back drinks during the game.
* Former Vikings QB Warren Moon pleaded not guilty this week to DUI charges stemming from a Dec. 28 arrest in which he refused to take field sobriety or breath tests. A pre-trial hearing is set for March 31. The Dec. 28 incident was the second time in 2007 that Moon was pulled over for drinking-related offenses. Earlier in the year, he was pulled over, but wasn't charged with a DUI after blowing a .067 and .068 on a pair of Breathalyzer tests, both under the legal limit of .08 for being legally intoxicated.

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