When Sharper returns, what will happen to the team’s current starting free safety, Malcolm Jenkins?
Darren Sharper reportedly participated in Wednesday’s practice for the first time this season. Sporting a brace on his left knee, the Pro Bowl safety and huge fan favorite was just removed from the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List this week. That notwithstanding, Sharper has clearly indicated that he is ready, willing, and able to get back out on the field and compete, hopefully against the Cleveland Browns this Sunday. His scores of fans are mutually anxious to see him in action as well. However, I doubt very seriously we’ll him play any time soon.
Following Wednesday’s practice, Coach Sean Payton addressed the media concerning various issues. But one thing I’ve learned about Payton–it’s not so much what he says; it’s what he doesn’t say. Although he commented about Sharper’s status, his responses were elusive and noncommittal at best. Here is the portion of the transcript concerning Sharper (from neworleanssaints.com).
Media: How did Darren Sharper look at practice today?
Payton: “He looked pretty good. He got some reps and got some work with the scout team as well. We’ll just keep evaluating him day-to-day.”
Media: Would he have been the equivalent of full on the injury report?
Payton: “We don’t have to list him, so…”
Media: Is there any possibility of him playing this week?
Payton: “We’ll see. I wouldn’t rule it out and yet I wouldn’t say it’s a definite.”
Media: Can you make a decision to activate Sharper as late as Saturday or is there a cut-off?
Payton: “It would be Saturday. Again with Darren, if you bring him up to the 53, you have to create a space.”
Media: In the determination to make Sharper active, would it just be his health or does the role that he could play based on the players you would have to release factor into it?
Payton: “You probably would factor in all of the above. Where’s he at from a health standpoint? Do we feel like he’s close to 100% and if so, what’s the role? All of that gets factored in when you make a decision like that.”
My guess would be that Payton will not activate Sharper this week at the least. For one thing, he gave no indication of just how close he thinks Sharper is to being able to return or even if he will. Secondly, he alluded to the fact that right now, there is no definite role for Sharper. Remember that Malcolm Jenkins was switched from corner to play the free safety position. Well Payton also stated in the media brief that he has no plans to switch Jenkins back to corner, even with all of the key injuries currently at that position. And thirdly, I just don’t think Payton wants to have to release another player right now to make room for Sharper on the 53-man roster. Again, it’s what he didn’t say that concerns me on this.
As a huge Sharper fan myself, I would love to see him back on the field. I have to admit though, I’m so worried that if he hasn’t been re-signed by next Sunday’s matchup against the Steelers, there’s a big possibility that he won’t be. I know Payton has said over and over that he has a 21-day grace period in which to evaluate Sharper (and all the circumstances surrounding his return of course), but I’ve got to wonder if it would really take that long to sort through things if having him on the roster was a primary goal. I mean, you’d think that at this point, either he’d be physically able to go or at least close to it. Somehow I think most of it is ultimately going to depend on how well some other players perform and whether certain other ones step up enough, as well as getting players back healthy. If Payton sees the results he’s hoping for, we probably won’t see Darren Sharper back in a New Orleans Saints uniform. This is just my opinion, folks, and boy do I hope I’m wrong!
I guess it is encouraging that Sharper was allowed to report to practice because he could’ve just been released the way Ingram was. The thing is, you just never know with Sean Payton. That’s part of his charm and success though. By not showing his hand, he keeps everybody guessing.