In his eight NFL seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Darren Sharper perfected the Lambeau Leap.
He scored seven defensive touchdowns, tied for tops in the league during that span, which gave him ample opportunity to leap into the arms of adoring Packers fans sitting in the end zone seats.
Coming off a superior performance against the New York Giants last weekend, the Minnesota Vikings free safety isn't so sure those fans will be as accommodating tomorrow when he travels with his team to Green Bay.
"I wonder if they'll catch me and throw me out," Sharper said with a smile. "With that purple and gold on, I don't know if I can do that any more."
But the old man can still make plays.
The Packers chose not to re-sign Sharper, convinced his best days were behind him. So he headed across the border to rival Minnesota, and has shown so far that he still has it.
"He looks like he's about five years back in time," Green Bay coach Mike Sherman said. "He's running around and he looks great. He looks like a Pro Bowl player. I don't think they would ever not have him on their ballot because the way he is playing right now, he is playing lights-out."
Sharper earned NFC defensive player of the week honors for his performance in New York, which included intercepting Eli Manning three times and taking one 92 yards for a touchdown, his second TD this season.
"Absolutely superb performance," defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell said. "One of the finer performances you'll see by a free safety. He was all over the place. Both run and pass.
"It was a great game for any free safety. I can't remember a free safety having a better game."
All three of Sharper's interceptions came with New York in Minnesota's red zone, and helped preserve a surprising 24-21 victory that gave the Vikings (4-5) their first regular-season win outdoors since the start of the 2003 season.
Now Sharper goes back to Green Bay for the first time as a member of the enemy. He's already 1-0 against Green Bay, having defeated the Packers in the Metrodome on Oct. 23. But this is a little different.
"It definitely is," Sharper said. "The first thing I was telling someone was to make sure that I don't go to their sideline because of the fact I've been doing that for eight years. Make sure I stay on the away team's sideline. It's going to be interesting also to see the visiting team's locker room and all that."
Despite the Vikings' struggles on and off the field this season, it will be a triumphant return for Sharper.
He leads the NFC and is second in the NFL with five interceptions this season despite missing two games with a knee injury, and also had an 88-yard interception return for a touchdown in the opener against Tampa Bay.
Take that, Packers.
"They'll be looking at this film so they'll know what pretty much they could have had," Sharper said.
This is the time of year the 1972 Miami Dolphins start paying closer attention to the Indianapolis Colts, the NFL's only remaining unbeaten team.
Those Dolphins were the last team to complete a season without a loss, going 17-0 en route to a Super Bowl victory. The Colts are 9-0 as they go into Cincinnati today.
But their finishing schedule is daunting, starting with the Bengals (7-2). There are home games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Diego Chargers and games at the Jacksonville Jaguars and Seattle Seahawks, four teams with a current combined record of 25-11.
No big deal for Indianapolis, which is led by two of the calmer people in the NFL, coach Tony Dungy and quarterback Peyton Manning.
"I think it's good for the NFL to have story lines, and I'd certainly rather have them talking about something like that than Terrell Owens," Dungy says. "This is the first time I've ever been through this situation, so I'm going to enjoy it."
That demeanor may help the Colts in Cincinnati. Indianapolis is used to big games. The Bengals are not.
But Cincinnati did beat the Kansas City Chiefs two seasons ago when they came to town 9-0. And this team is better -- that was Marvin Lewis' first season as head coach and the first of two 8-8 seasons that propelled the Bengals from the NFL's basement to the middle of the pack.
Now they are legitimate contenders, tied for first in the AFC North division with Pittsburgh, and looking to this game as an opportunity to be recognized as an elite team.
Most of the Bengals spent their bye weekend cheering for Indianapolis to beat Houston so they would have the first shot at knocking off the league's last unbeaten team.
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