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Friday, June 4, 2010
Thankfully, Payton silences Darren Sharper

By Pat Yasinskas

Darren Sharper
Saints coach Sean Payton stopped the escalating back and forth between Darren Sharper and Visanthe Shiancoe.
METAIRIE, La. -- In what might be his most brilliant move since that onside kick in the Super Bowl, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton called a halt to a little war that had grown out of hand.

Payton, who is supposed to be an offensive genius, played defense this time. He put an end to the Twitter war between New Orleans safety Darren Sharper and Minnesota tight end Visanthe Shiancoe.

"I'm done with that,'' Sharper said after Friday afternoon's practice. "Let it ride.''

As New Orleans fans pay tribute to the Lombardi Trophy, which is on public display at the Saints’ facility this weekend, they also should thank Payton for another contribution that is almost as meaningful to society as a whole.

“I think it’s fairly silly that we’re sitting in the month of June talking about two players … it would be different if they were texting each other,’’ Payton said after Friday’s first minicamp practice.

But Sharper and Shiancoe have not been texting one another. They have been Tweeting and taking shots at one another as they look ahead to the season opener between the Saints and the Vikings. They’re former teammates and there’s no doubt this all started harmlessly. But the fact is, with Twitter, there is no privacy.

“I don’t have a Facebook and I don’t have a Twitter or anything like that,’’ Payton said. “But when you decide to do something like that, you are having a mini press conference. We make sure the players understand that.’’

Payton may not be an expert on social media. But he’s as good a football coach as there is right now and social media was becoming a big issue for his team.

“I don’t anticipate it being any more of an issue,’’ Payton said.

Visanthe Shiancoe
Visanthe Shiancoe and Darren Sharper have been waging a Twitter war for more than a week.
Translation: Payton, perhaps using slightly differently language, has told Sharper to stop it.

"He had a couple of words for me,'' Sharper said. "That might be part of why I'm not responding.''

The coach doesn’t have any control over Shiancoe, but closing one side of a ping-pong table usually ends the game.

Payton wasn’t providing any more details about what he told Sharper, but it was pretty obvious the same message was given to all the Saints.

“I’m trying to learn everything I can from [Sharper], but not the Twitter stuff. I’m not going to do that his way,’’ said Malcolm Jenkins, New Orleans’ first-round draft pick from a year ago, who is being groomed as Sharper’s eventual replacement at free safety.

Sharper spent much of last season talking about how much he’d like to face Minnesota, his former team, in the NFC Championship Game. He got his wish and the Saints won that game, but that act wore itself out on Twitter and in Payton’s eyes. Sharper's got the message now.

"The first game will be the time to talk about it and let the actions speak,'' Sharper said.

Sharper was on the practice field in the morning, but not practicing. He’s recovering from offseason knee surgery and he spent time between plays going over assignments with Jenkins. That’s the kind of input the Saints want from Sharper. He can give lots of good advice to a young player. He also still can play, if you go by last year.

What the Saints don’t want from Sharper is public output. Coming off a Super Bowl, the last thing the Saints need is a distraction. They already are the biggest target for every team on their schedule. There has been controversy this offseason with the team’s former security director alleging in a lawsuit (that since has been sent to arbitration) that senior officials were stealing pain pills. The Saints also have left tackle Jammal Brown and running back Pierre Thomas not showing up for workouts as they look for new contracts. Tight end Jeremy Shockey might be a walking distraction.

The Saints don’t need to spend the next few months firing up the Vikings. Sharper’s got bigger things to worry about, too. He’s put together a career that could land him in the Hall of Fame. Another strong season could put him over the top.

Sharper needs to get himself healthy and back on the field because the Saints are pleased with how Jenkins is progressing. Sharper doesn’t need a Twitter war to keep himself relevant. He needs to get on the field for the season opener.

“I figure there’s going to be a lot of people watching that game anyway,’’ New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees said.

As always, Brees is completely accurate. The actual game between the Saints and Vikings will be played in the Superdome. The Saints don’t need any other games right now.