Jamie Sharper's talent has always been evident. What he has lacked is consistency. An impressive game one week was followed by a mediocre game the next.
However, in the Baltimore Ravens' past two games, Sharper has been exceptional as well as consistent as the weak-side linebacker. He led the team with 10 solo tackles against Cleveland. He recorded seven against Atlanta. Sharper currently ranks second on the team behind middle linebacker Ray Lewis with 32 tackles this season.
Still, Baltimore Coach Brian Billick is reluctant to heap praise.
"It is very encouraging that he could put back-to-back games [together] that way," Billick said. "Now we'll see if he can do three [in a row]." When Baltimore took Sharper out of Virginia in the second round of the 1997 draft, the Ravens hoped to complete an imposing linebacker corps. They had selected strong-side linebacker Peter Boulware in the first round of that draft. Lewis was a first-round pick from the previous year.
Sharper "rounds out what can really be one of the best, if not the best, linebacking corps in the league," Billick said.
So far, while Lewis and Boulware have been to the Pro Bowl, Sharper hasn't quite lived up to the promise he showed at Virginia, where he was the school's all-time leading tackler (435). Even though he has started 35 of 36 games since coming to the Ravens, Sharper has failed to build a reputation equal to those of Boulware and Lewis.
But this season, under the tutelage of linebacker coach Jack Del Rio, Sharper has begun to revive his disappointing career.
"He knows the last couple years have not been what he wanted them to be, not what the Ravens wanted them to be, not what the fans wanted them to be," Del Rio said. "To his credit, he's come in and worked every day and tried to get better. He has to. And he still has a long way to go. I'm not going to relax for a minute, and he knows that."
As an 11-year NFL veteran linebacker who led the Minnesota Vikings in tackles for three seasons, Del Rio commands great respect from Sharper as well as the other linebackers. Sharper said since Del Rio became his coach, he has better defined the position for him and helped him get a better read on opposing offenses. According to Sharper, Del Rio's tutoring as well as his increasing familiarity with the Ravens' defensive system have combined to make him a more productive linebacker.
"Before, there were questions about what I can do," Shaper said. "That made me have questions. . . . When he came in, he instilled a lot of confidence back in me, my ability to make plays."
Sharper is in the final year of a three-year contract. His financial future as well as his future with Baltimore may depend on his performance this season. But Sharper denies that motivates him to play well.
"That doesn't have anything to do with it," Sharper said. "I just want to help the team get victories. I'm tired of losing."
Ravens Notes: Left tackle Jonathan Ogden (St. Albans School) did not practice today. Ogden, who suffered a cervical strain in the Atlanta game, continues to receive treatment on his neck. He is listed as questionable for Sunday's game against Tennessee.
"When I can move [the neck] without pain, then I'll play," Ogden said. "When I move it back, I can still feel pain. There's still something in there that's not quite right." . . .
Defensive tackle Tony Siragusa practiced for the first time in two weeks. Siragusa underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Sept. 25.