Tuesday, August 17, 2004
Jordan tells Sanders: 'Go do it'
By Chris Mortensen
Special to ESPN.com
Deion Sanders is "definitely" going to play football with the Baltimore Ravens this season and he has gone so far as to seek counsel from former NBA superstar Michael Jordan, according to a source close to Sanders.
"Michael Jordan made it simple for Deion: 'If [playing] is sitll in your heart, go do it,' " the source said.
Jordan made two such comebacks: the first upon returning to the Chicago Bulls in 1994 after trying his hand at professional baseball, and the second when he came out of retirement in 2002 to play for the Washington Wizards. Jordan retired for good following the 2003 season, when the Wizards failed to make the NBA playoffs.
Sanders is training hard at his home in Dallas, where he has built his own football field -- originally designed for his son.
"He's running 100s and 40s, a lot of them, and he is sore," the source said. "But he's still determined to do this."
Sanders should be ready to work out for the Ravens in two weeks, barring a change of heart. A league source has confirmed that Sanders would be considered an unrestricted free agent if he decides to make a comeback. His possible return to the NFL was first reported by the Baltimore Sun in Monday's editions.
Not everyone he apparently has sought counsel from has given him a hearty endorsement to unretire at age 37.
"Deion is one of the all-timers, but by his personality alone he's going to have his critics out there waiting for him to flop on this, which is why he's getting some counter-advice not to do this," the source said. "That's why he wants to do it with the Ravens. He's not dumb. He knows he won't be the old Deion. But he's positive he'll be good enough to do what they want."
The Ravens are looking for a veteran cornerback to solidify their nickel coverages and are "more interested" in Sanders than their public posture, according to a team source.
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome would not speculate on Sanders' return, but said that if the former Pro Bowl cornerback wanted to unretire, "He'd have to show me something [in a workout]."
Sanders is close friends with Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis and cornerback Corey Fuller, whose job as the nickel back would be threatened by Sanders. Lewis has urged him to play with the Ravens nonetheless.
"It's the right team, the right defense," the source said. "They play two-deep zone and he'll almost have someone protecting him over the top. He thinks he can do this job well. And he thinks the Ravens can be a Super Bowl contender. For him, it all fits."
A downside for Sanders is that if he plays again this year, the five-year clock on his inevitable Hall of Fame election must be reset.
Senior ESPN.com writer Len Pasquarelli contributed to this report.