The question now is: Will he take them up on their offer?
The Ravens have told Sanders that if he wants to end his
retirement of three years, he would be welcome to join the team.
Sanders is working out at his Dallas home in an effort to determine
if his 37-year-old body can take the punishment of playing in the
"He's obviously doing his due diligence to see if this is
something he really wants to do," Ravens coach Brian Billick said
Wednesday. "Certainly we'd love to have him in, and when we get to
that point, he'll be in."
Ravens safety Corey Fuller, a good friend of Sanders, isn't so
sure that Sanders is ready to put on a helmet and shoulder pads for
the first time since 2000, when he was a member of the Washington
Redskins. Sanders formally announced his retirement the day before
the Redskins opened camp in 2001.
"I talk to him every day," Fuller said. "I know what he's
going to do. The man said he's not coming. He's got four kids. It's
not because he can't play anymore. It's just that the man has a lot
going on outside of football."
But the Ravens are convinced that Sanders has yet to arrive at a
final decision, and they're prepared to let him take his time in
deciding if he wants to join the team.
"It's far enough along that when he feels he's ready, he's
in," Billick said. "Deion is a professional. He doesn't want to
come in here unless he's ready to go. We'll give him that kind of
space, and when he feels he's physically at the right spot, then
we'd love to have him."
Sanders made a name for himself at cornerback, a far more
demanding position than where the Ravens would use him -- as a fifth
defensive back in passing situations. Therefore, Billick isn't
worried about the possibility of Sanders perhaps being a step
slower than when he was known as Prime Time.
"He's a special individual with special talents. He's not too
old, I can promise you that," Billick said. "It will be a work in
progress to a degree, but he's not too old. He's been out of it for
three years, which means he's fresh."
On that point, Fuller concurred.
"Deion is in great shape. He has a gym in his house and works
out all the time. But when you get older, it comes down to your
mind," Fuller said. "When you've been off for three years, you
get attached to other things."
Sanders, a former major league outfielder, worked out with the
Texas Rangers prior to Wednesday night's game against the Cleveland
Indians. He shagged flies in the outfield and took swings in the
As he left the field, Sanders was evasive when asked about
returning to the NFL.
"I'm here to talk about baseball," Sanders said. "Baseball
questions only. I really miss baseball. I didn't know how much I
missed it, being around the guys."
If Sanders wants to play for the Ravens, defensive coordinator
Mike Nolan would happily draw up a game plan that would include him
in the backfield.
"Adding depth is one thing, but adding quality depth is a whole
different thing," Nolan said. "A player like that comes along,
we'll do what fits that player. It will allow us to be more
aggressive than we already are. A player like that allows you to do
just about anything."
Most of the Ravens are excited about the possibility, too.
"Deion brings excitement to the game," linebacker Adalius
Thomas said. "I used to watch him as a kid, and now you get a
chance to sit down with him and pick his brain. It will be very
exciting when he does, uh, if he does come back."
Ravens wide receiver Kevin Johnson is excited about the prospect
of running in practice against cornerback Chris McAlister, who is
expected to arrive in camp next week, and Sanders, one of the
finest defensive backs of the past 20 years.
"You figure, with him, Chris and Gary Baxter, you're going to
get the best of both worlds," Johnson said. "You're going up
against Chris, who's the best of his time right now, and Deion, one
of the best of his time."
But the addition of Sanders could spell trouble for a player
such as rookie cornerback Lance Frazier, who's striving to be part
of the team.
"That would be another roster spot, right at the position that
I'm playing," Frazier said. "That will get me either booted or
put on practice squad."