- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2001

OWINGS MILLS, Md. A Bronx cheer or a mile high salute?

Baltimore Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe doesn't know what kind of reception he'll receive in his first trip back to Denver on Sunday.

"Maybe it will be a combination of both: When I come out, they will cheer, but when I do something good, they'll boo," Sharpe said. "I like boos."

But Sharpe had better not expect polite treatment from his former Denver Broncos teammates. Said outside linebacker Bill Romanowski: "I'm not going to be cheering for him."

If Sharpe has a big game at Denver's new Invesco Field at Mile High, Romanowski may be forced to give Sharpe his due. Sharpe could become the NFL's all-time leader in career receiving yardage by a tight end.

With 7,911 yards, Sharpe needs 70 to pass the 7,980 accumulated by boss Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' senior vice president of football operations. After yesterday's morning practice, Newsome warned Sharpe that he was going to be like Michael Jordan and end his retirement so he could take away Sharpe's starting job. The usually outspoken Sharpe just walked away smiling.

With only eight yards, Sharpe will pass Jackie Smith for second on the all-time list.

"I don't want them to stop the game I want to keep going, because if I've gotten 70 yards, then I'm doing pretty good," Sharpe said. "I'm hot and I'm on a roll. Actually, I would like to catch passes for like 69 yards and we win the game and come back and get the record at PSINet Stadium."

For 10 seasons in Denver, Sharpe redefined the tight end position. The future Hall of Famer has been credited for becoming the first tight end in league history to line up as a wideout.

Sharpe, a seven-time Pro Bowl pick, is the Broncos' all-time leader in receiving yardage (6,983), receptions (552) and touchdowns (44). He needs 33 receptions to become the NFL's all-time leader in catches by a tight end.

At 33, Sharpe is a workout fanatic. Not a big fan of daily practices, he is totally committed to his body. During the offseason, Sharpe works out faithfully and always reports to training camp in peak condition.

"He was a guy that never lived here during the offseason, but he always came into camp in the best shape," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "He doesn't have any body fat, he takes exceptionally great care of himself and he makes plays when it counts. He's always been a big-play receiver and a big-play athlete… . The bigger the game, the more plays he makes."

In his 12th year, Sharpe came up big during the Ravens' Super Bowl run last season, contributing 230 yards and two touchdowns on just six receptions in the postseason. In the AFC Championship game in Oakland, Sharpe set an NFL postseason record for longest reception when he raced 96 yards to score on a 3rd-and-18 play.

Sharpe had a huge 56-yard catch in Baltimore's 24-10 AFC divisional playoff victory at Tennessee, but his catch in the 21-3 AFC wild card defeat of the Broncos is what everybody remembers best.

The play started with a short swing pass from quarterback Trent Dilfer to rookie running back Jamal Lewis. The ball bounced off Lewis' hands, and Denver cornerback Terrell Buckley batted it. Sharpe, who cut his route short, ended up catching the ball while preparing to tackle Buckley and raced 58 yards to give the Ravens a huge touchdown and a 14-3 lead.

Not bad for a seventh-round draft pick (192nd overall) in the 1990 NFL Draft out of tiny Savannah State.

"[The Broncos] called it lucky," Sharpe said. "They always call me lucky for the simple fact that I leave one team and come here and we win a Super Bowl. How do you leave one team that was 8-8 the previous year and win a Super Bowl? Sometimes I believe it's better to be lucky than good."

The talkative Sharpe, who currently tops NFL tight ends with 12 receptions and is tied for fourth among all AFC receivers, is taking a subdued approach to Sunday's showdown between the Ravens (1-1) and the Broncos (2-0).

"I'm not going to be any more nervous than I would be if I was playing anyone else," he said. "So far I've had a great year and a half here in Baltimore. I know I won't have 10 years here, but I've loved my time here."

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