The Saints' defense became much more opportunistic in 2009, and the signing of FS Darren Sharper had a lot to do with its improvement in terms of takeaways. Sharper wasn't exactly a hot commodity when he hit the open market last year, but the Saints took a chance on the 13th-year veteran by signing him to a one-year deal, and the move paid off. Sharper matched a career high by making nine interceptions and he returned three of them for touchdowns. The 34-year-old met with the media on Wednesday and spoke about his feelings on being back in the Super Bowl for the first time since his rookie year and whether the Saints' defense is "dirty."
Q: How much did your playmaking mentality contribute to the team's improvement in forcing turnovers this season?
A: I always believe this: What separates an average defensive back from a good defensive back is one that can finish the play and, when they get the opportunity, make that play. When the ball is in the air or when they have the chance to make a tackle in the open field, just being able to finish the big play. On the defensive side of the football, I think it has been the biggest difference from previous years to this year, and I hope I have been able to contribute to that.
Q: How do you go about teaching younger players how to create turnovers?
A: Just to believe in what you see. Everyone studies a lot of tape, but when it comes to game time, some people don't trust exactly what they see during that play, or that route or that quarterback read starts to materialize, they second-guess themselves. The main thing that I do is that I tell them to trust what they see and be able to attack the football. Then, when they get a chance to make a play, finish the play and make it.
Q: Do you play a risky style of defense?
A: No, I don't think so at all. If you have the ability to see and you trust your instincts, more often than not you will make the play and you are going to be right. Many times after games, you always think back and say, 'Man, I saw that coming, but I just didn't pull the trigger.' When you pull the trigger, you will be right more often than wrong.
Q: What makes Peyton Manning such an effective quarterback?
A: He is accurate, very intelligent, can make every throw in the book, has a strong enough arm to get the ball down the football field and has enough touch for short, intermediate passes. He knows how to work with his receivers. Whatever attribute you want to give to a quarterback, he has all of those. He is tough and has been in every game. He says he can't move too well, but really he doesn't have to because his arm is so good.
Q: Would you say your defense has a 'dirty' style of play?
A: We don't know if we want to call ourselves 'dirty,' but I think I said this before — it is like taking a shower when you get up in the morning and are going to cut your grass. You are nice and fresh when you cut the grass, but at the end you have a little griminess to you. We want to call ourselves a little grimy, not dirty all the way, but just maybe a little grimy. That is how we like to play.
Q: How does it feel to be back in the Super Bowl after not playing in one since your rookie year with the Packers in 1997?
A: It feels great. You kind of miss being under that Super Bowl spotlight because it is so tough to get there. My rookie year, I definitely was not in the position that I am today, being one of the leaders on the team that is in the Super Bowl. I feel like this year I have the opportunity to kind of cherish those memories. My first year we lost, and I want to make sure this trip is better than that one was. It was so long ago I forgot how that was. I want to make sure I remember this one.
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