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Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Darren Sharper I will miss!

by Bruce
For PackerChatters

… was already gone! I felt the loss of that Darren long before his signing with Minnesota – though at the time it seems like perhaps “the unkindest cut of all”. I think most of us will miss the Darren Sharper of Promise, mostly because under the tutelage of LeRoy Butler, Darren flashed us so much promise, and we all wanted to believe that it was promised to us.

We watched this kid who couldn’t tackle learn from Leroy to wrap up, and even on occasion, to deliver a big hit. Problem was we thought that we were promised he would do it consistently like LeRoy always did.

Apparently Darren didn’t learn that part of the lesson, and with each passing season he seemed to slide back towards the kid who didn’t know how. Worse yet, was sensing that it was really because he didn’t have the heart. I was already missing the Darren that I wanted to count on to make the tackle especially when his team needed it the most -- because that Darren was already long gone.

We watched as LeRoy pushed for Darren to be given his featured position so he could learn to have a nose for the ball, and learn to use that nose to make big plays. It was a lesson that Darren seemed to take natural to. Knowing that LeRoy was backing him up he went after the ball and the QB on blitz’s with confidence and determination. He learned to break on the ball when he had the read and he knew what to do with the ball once he got his hands on it.

What Darren failed to learn was to pick his spots so that offenses could not counter with big plays of their own when it was the QB making the read. Worse yet he failed to learn to save those plays for big moments when his team needed it the most, like LeRoy always seemed to do. Tragically Sharper never learned LeRoy Butlers greatest lesson he tried to teach by example – to put the team first. Instead he would always put Darren first – it became Darren Sharper this, Darren Sharper that. I was already missing the Darren that I thought would reach the promise of maturity, courage and leadership – because I wanted to believe those promises that Darren would show flashes of even after LeRoy was gone.

I understand injuries and believe players need to take care of themselves. But it was hard not to note the stark contrast between Darren and LeRoy when it came to showing up for the big games Vs spending the week on the trainers table and than giving it just enough of a go to claim he’s tried.

We watched as Darren Sharper of Promise faded further and further away until he was gone. Some days I wonder whether the Darren I miss slipped away or perhaps that he was never really there.

Read the article below and I think you will know what I mean!

NFL.Com Wire Reports:
GREEN BAY, Wis. (July 18, 2002) -- Safety LeRoy Butler ended his 12-year career with the Green Bay Packers, proud that he's one of the few current players to play his entire career with one team.

"Just knowing I can retire today and all my football cards are that green-and-white jersey, that is priceless," he said. "This is a celebration for me. I don't want people to be sad. You have not seen the last of LeRoy Butler."

Butler, who helped lead the Packers to Super Bowls after the 1996 and 1997 seasons, invented the "Lambeau Leap," the jump into the stands after touchdowns. He said the shoulder he injured last November hasn't healed fast enough for him to be ready for the season-opener Sept. 8.

He said he has no immediate plans, but hopes one day to become a head coach.
Butler, who turns 34 on July 19, was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time All-Pro. He recently agreed to a pay cut -- his second significant salary reduction -- to help the Packers' salary-cap situation.

But a July 5 examination of his injured left shoulder revealed that a bone near the shoulder socket was not completely healed.

Butler said team doctors couldn't assure him that the shoulder would heal in time for the start of the season, and he didn't want to tie down a roster spot until then.

"I had no choice. I can't hit anybody," Butler said. "I can do anything but play football. I've been playing basketball, softball, golf, everything. If a guy 25 had the same injury, he wouldn't be able to play."

He finishes his career having played in 181 games, 15 shy of Bart Starr's team record of 196 games.

Butler fell just short of becoming the first player in NFL history to finish his career with 40 career interceptions and 20 sacks. His 38 interceptions rank fourth in team history and his 20½ sacks are the most of any Packers defensive back.

In a game in December 1993 against the Oakland Raiders, Butler forced a fumble by running back Randy Jordan that Reggie White recovered and then pitched to Butler. He scored his first career touchdown and celebrated by jumping into the stands.

The "Lambeau Leap" became an entrenched tradition for wide receivers in the years that followed as the Packers went from also-rans to a perennial playoff team.

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