- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2001

TAMPA, Fla. Baltimore Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe proves it's not bragging if you can back it up.

In an offense that didn't score a touchdown in the month of October spanning five games Sharpe suddenly has returned as a postseason game-breaker. He scored on a 96-yard touchdown in the 16-3 AFC Championship game victory over Oakland and a 54-yard touchdown in the 21-3 win over Denver in the first round. His 56-yard catch against Tennessee set up a touchdown in a 24-10 triumph in the AFC semifinals. Not bad production for just five receptions in three games.

"I can't even remember in high school or college being in a situation like this," Sharpe said yesterday. "The first week, that was a fluke. The second week, they blew a tackle. The third week, they missed a coverage. You get one or two opportunities to make a big play, and if you do, nine times out of 10 you'll be able to kill a team. If you make a mistake, we make you pay."

Sharpe is loose among the media, and that means plenty of barbs and zingers in coming days. He taunts opponents like a bully holding his little sister's doll out of reach. People still ask if New York Giants cornerback Jason Sehorn knows how to spell "Dow Jones," referring to a 3-year-old commercial featuring the duo.

Sharpe rattled responses for 45 minutes in the first media session of a long Super Bowl week. He talked about the Ravens not having a curfew five times. Four times he addressed linebacker Ray Lewis' involvement in a double murder last year that will surely be today's hot topic. He joked that Ravens quarterback Trent Dilfer cries too much and defensive tackle Tony Siragusa's offseason training program is eating pizza. Sharpe even decried the quality of topless clubs surrounding the team's hotel.

At least the worst question has come from fans instead of the media.

"I get so sick of people asking me if we're going to win Sunday," Sharpe said. "That's the dumbest question I've ever heard. No, we're going down here to try to lose."

As vibrant as his lime striped suit, Sharpe waves his two Super Bowl rings with Denver (1997-98) and six Pro Bowls at detractors. You either love or hate Sharpe, but he's only one good season away from breaking Ozzie Newsome's record for most receptions (662) and yards (7,980) by a tight end.

"People say they wish I could be a little more humble," Sharpe said. "I wish I could be like [Cincinnati outfielder] Ken Griffey and drive in 100 runs and hit 45 homers and say, 'Yeah, I had a good year,' but that's not Shannon Sharpe. I have to be loud. I have to be outgoing. That's who I am. That's what I am. I like it."

After a week-long tradeoff of insults with Atlanta Falcons cornerback Ray Buchanan, Sharpe guaranteed a solid effort in Super Bowl XXXIII. However, Sharpe was injured by Buchanan on his first reception and missed the rest of the game. Sharpe still barks back at Buchanan, who wore a dog collar that week.

"Buchanan was trying to pump his team up because he knew he was outmanned," Sharpe said. "We could have played our 'C' game and beat them by seven points. We were more talented than they were. If [cornerback] Eugene Robinson had been in his room at 8 o'clock [rather than arrested for solicitation] we still would have beaten them. Atlanta did not have the talent. They could have curfew at 6 o'clock."

Sharpe admitted winning two Super Bowls has somewhat dulled his passion for the big game.

"There's nothing like the first one," he said. "It's now different. In Denver, we expected to be there. It means more to [Baltimore owner] Art Modell than it does for me."

Still, it beats playing for teams like woeful Cincinnati. Sharpe still laughs over the Bengals wanting to sign him as a free agent last year.

"The only way I play for the Bengals is if they give me $20 million to sign and not put my name on the back of the my jersey because I wouldn't want anybody to know," he said.

Imagine, Sharpe playing in anonymity. Not in this lifetime.

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