TAMPA, Fla. -- The New York Giants know Shannon Sharpe is going to talk trash at the Super Bowl. It's as much a part of his game as cleats and helmet.
What they don't want is for Sharpe to become The Mouth That Scored.
Sharpe led the Baltimore Ravens this season with 67 catches and 810 yards receiving. He was an integral part of the offense on third downs and scored five touchdowns, including the game-winner in an important victory over Jacksonville.
The stellar tight end has also been a force in the playoffs - he scored on a 58-yard play against Denver, caught a 56-yarder to set up a key touchdown against Tennessee and stunned Oakland with a 96-yard score.
"You know he's their go-to guy," Giants safety Sam Garnes said. "He's a tight end that really moves well, more like a wide receiver. He understands the game, he's smart and has good speed. You have your hands full against someone like that."
Sharpe also provides defenses with an earful. Although he's been talking nonstop this week, he's saving plenty for the Super Bowl.
"That's when I pull out my best stuff," he said.
It's all a part of the leadership quality coach Brian Billick was looking for when they signed the former Denver Broncos star as a free agent during the offseason.
"I don't know if Brian knew that I'd have the impact that I've had, especially in the postseason, but he knew I was confident," Sharpe said. "He knew I worked hard. He knew I played with passion. I enjoy the game, and he wanted me to bring that confidence to the team."
That confidence comes along with two Super Bowl rings, seven Pro Bowls, 619 career receptions and 49 touchdowns. His offensive prowess was instrumental during the regular season, and now his playoff experience is paying off for a team that never before reached the postseason.
"Shannon is a major acquisition for us. He's critical to the chemistry of our team; he's our leader," Ravens owner Art Modell said.
The Ravens got it all when they signed the former seventh-round pick out of Savannah State. In addition to starring in the playoffs, this week he's served as a lightning rod for the media, providing enough verbiage to fill up several notebooks at each session.
His presence has also taken the pressure off an offense that has done just enough to avoid ruining the performance of one of the best defensive units in the history of the game. Wide receivers Qadry Ismail, Patrick Johnson and Brandon Stokley aren't going to scare the Giants, but Sharpe has certainly has their attention.
"Stopping him is a big factor in our game plan," New York defensive coordinator John Fox said. "He's a great veteran guy who knows how to run patterns. He's definitely one of the big-play threats they have, and he has been throughout the playoffs."
Giants reserve Adam Young has been playing the role of Sharpe in practice this week, but the reserve tight end hasn't even attempted to emulate Sharpe's trash-talking ways.
"I don't know if he can handle that one," Fox said with a laugh.
There are different approaches to dealing with Sharpe's nonstop banter. Some ignore it. Others get in his face.
Regardless of the technique, the key is to avoid letting Sharpe's dialogue affect your game.
"You can't let him get in your head," Garnes said. "He talks, but that doesn't make him a bad guy. He's just having fun with the game."
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