New Orleans Saints safety Darren Sharper addresses the New England media during his conference call on Wednesday, November 25, 2009.
Q: How has your defense been so successful at returning interceptions for touchdowns?
DS: That's something we work on each and every day in practice. We have drills that we do - when guys get an interception we make sure we get everyone out to block and clear the way for them so they can have an easier chance to get into the end zone. And when we're in practice, if someone gets an interception, coach is always screaming, 'Get out and block everyone. Get out and block everyone. Get out and block to clear the way.' I think that's a direct reflection on why we've had the amount of scores on defense. It has really become a mentality for us whenever someone gets their hands on the football.
Q: Have you ever had this many pick-sixes in a season?
DS: As a team? I don't know if...maybe...at this point so far, I don't think so. The number we have now is pretty high. One of the years in Minnesota we had a bunch - close to ten. But at this point through ten games, to have five or six, I'm not sure how many we have, but we're going at a pretty good rate right now.
Q: How much of that turnover success can be attributed to Gregg Williams' aggression and attitude?
DS: A lot of it can be attributed to Gregg Williams and his mentality and him preaching to us to have that aggressive type of attitude to go after the football. One thing he always said each and every day is that they are not called giveaways, they are called takeaways. You have to try to take the football away from the offensive player and that mentality has carried over from day one until now. He's made it a point to preach each and every day. It's not one of those things that he said early on and then forgot about saying it. He's been pretty good about keeping that mentality of being aggressive and going after the football.
Q: When someone gets a pick, what do you yell?
Q: Do you really?
DS: [Laughter] That's what we should yell. No, we don't yell that. Whatever we're yelling, you really can't hear it because the crowd is usually pretty loud. But no, no one really says anything. It's something we practice. Everyone knows what they have to do and they look for the next guy to block.
Q: How much of a home-field advantage is there to playing in the Louisiana Superdome? Is it comparable to playing at Lambeau Field or in the Metrodome?
DS: Yeah, in Green Bay it was extremely loud. The fans were very passionate about the game and they were into the game. The crowd noise will be pretty extreme there. Whenever you are in an enclosed stadium, like the place I was before in Minnesota, it kind of makes the noise echo a little bit more and it makes the volume a little bit higher. It's the same way here in New Orleans at the Superdome. It gets pretty loud and it's hard for us to hear as defenders, so I can just imagine what the offensive guys have to deal with because it's deafening. I can be touching facemasks with you and you're yelling. I still can't hear you. It gets pretty loud and that's one of the things that's a home-field advantage for us. We definitely have to use that. Our fans, we don't have to worry about them being loud, they are going to be so excited from eight o'clock in the morning until game time. I just hope they are not worn out by the time the game starts.
Q: Is it possible some of them might be drinking before the game?
DS: [Laughter] I could say the chance and likelihood of that would have to be...100 percent.
Q: Ever smell the rum from the field?
DS: [Laughter] No, but I've had people spill beer on me before, not at New Orleans, but it's happened before. So I know what happens in New Orleans.
Q: Can you share some of your insights on what you've seen from Drew Brees in your time in New Orleans?
DS: Oh, he's just a technician, a guy that can dissect, surgically dissect opposing defenses no matter what defense you're running. His experience from the fact that he's seen all different types of defenses and the fact that he's a guy that prepares himself the best out of any quarterback that I've played with...Just day after day, he has a routine that he goes through - no matter rain, sunshine - can't say snow down here because we don't get that, but no matter what the weather is, whatever the day is, whatever he's going through, he's the same way each and every day in practice and that's why he's so consistent on the football field because he prepares himself the same each and every day. So, you don't see too much of an ebb and flow. It's not of a roller coaster with him. You know what to expect and he's been extremely impressive - just his preparation, how he prepares himself and also how he works, and that's on the field, off the field, in the weight room, everything.
Q: Do you think Drew Brees should be in the discussion along with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning as the best quarterbacks of the decade?
DS: Yeah he should be in there because whenever you talk about...if you go beyond the top two or three and you know who those are going to because it's like Brady has won so many Super Bowls and has been so productive this decade. You know you can always throw Peyton in there. Brett [Favre] because of what he has done. Drew has to be right behind that. You got top five and he's definitely in that category of quarterbacks because of the fact that he has been, over these last three years, probably the most productive in the system that he's running. All he needs now...you know if he gets a Super Bowl ring, he definitely will be given that respect from here on out.
Q: How often do you hear the word 'undefeated'?
DS: You don't hear it too often. You know the fact that the team we're playing Monday has done it recently, you heard about it more. But before that, you didn't hear about a team going undefeated. You didn't imagine a team doing that. And to have a chance to be able to do that is something you have to cherish, appreciate and go out there and take the task head-on and know that it's not going to be easy. But if you do accomplish that goal, it's something no one can take from you.
Q: You've been around the league a long time. Have you ever played in a regular season game quite like this one? Is this a unique game for you?
DS: It's unique because we are where we're sitting at in the NFC. They're a team that has been considered and is one of the top teams in the NFL for the past decade. As far as ramifications, this game is not as big as games I've been in where you have to win to get into the playoffs because that's always going to be bigger. But as far as the teams that are playing, the positioning and the season with the records, the guys on the teams and Monday Night Football, it makes it a really big game. But I've had games where you have to win to make the playoffs. That's always going to be a lot bigger.
Q: What is the atmosphere like around New Orleans right now? Is there a lot of anticipation for the game?
DS: It's like Mardi Gras in November. Basically, everyone has their minds on this game and the atmosphere is going to be unbelievable. I don't know if you guys are going to be down here, but it's one of those games, one of those times in which it's like seeing a Super Bowl in New Orleans. You know how many fans will be around and the thing about here is that the home team will be playing in their home stadium. So it's going to be a spectacle to see.
Q: You are having one of the best seasons of your career in your 13th season. To what would you attribute this resurgence?
DS: Well, my training always stays the same each and every year. I always come into training camp in good shape, try to be in the best shape for the season. I think just now, having the opportunity to play under the style of defense that Gregg Williams likes to play. He allows for his safeties and defensive players to trust themselves, trust their instincts and be playmakers. And that has really given me the freedom to do all the things I know I could have done in the past, but have had the handcuffs put on me a little bit. He's taken the handcuffs off and just let me go out there and play football, trust my instincts and it's worked well for us. Having a great offense like we have has really allowed for us to play in some games in which we might be up by a couple scores and teams are forced to do some things they don't want to do. And as a defensive player, you can take advantage of that and I've just been able to capitalize this part of the season - the first ten games - a lot of the opportunities that I've had, whether it's putting myself in position or kind of how the game has been made up. I've just been able to make some plays and it's worked out well for us and helped us win some games.