AWOL Sanders returns to Redskins

July 22, 1992|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

CARLISLE, Pa. -- Upon further review, Ricky Sanders has reversed his decision to leave the Washington Redskins' training camp.

"I wasn't ready to sign. I just went home and thought about it," he said about his decision to leave Monday morning after verbally agreeing to a two-year contract estimated at $1.9 million.

Sanders changed his mind faster than officials make some instant re- play reversals and was back on the field yesterday at 5:15 p.m. about halfway through the afternoon practice.

Sanders seemed surprised that his departure got so much attention in the Year of the Holdout in the Washington camp.

"They made a big deal [about it] like I was skipping the country. I'm not going anywhere. I love being here. I'm just an easy-going guy. I don't like to cause any trouble anywhere. Business is business and I'm ready to go to work now," he said.

His agent, Craig Lemaster, and general manager Charley Casserly didn't hammer out the deal until last weekend, so Sanders hadn't had much time to think about it.

"He was concerned whether he had achieved the maximum he could get out of it. It's not as much as he wants, but it's probably fair," Lemaster said.

Sanders' problem is that he was trapped on what teams call their salary ladder in which the best players set the standard. The more he thought about it, the more he knew he didn't have any options.

"He talked to some friends to get their opinion of the whole thing. He didn't want to rush into it," Lemaster said.

Since Art Monk is the highest paid Washington receiver, at $1.1 million, the Redskins weren't going to give Sanders more than that. They did bump Sanders, who made $750,000 last year, above Gary Clark, who's due to make $850,000 this year, but they're likely to do a new deal for Clark in the near future.

Sanders also doesn't have a lot of negotiating clout because he's the No. 3 receiver behind Monk and Clark and top draft choice Desmond Howard, who's holding out, is waiting in the wings.

Howard has already turned down more money (about $1.35 million a year) than Sanders will make, but high draft picks usually get more than most veterans in the NFL's somewhat illogical signing system.

"That's the way the system works," Sanders said. "Rookies get big chunks of money and you can't do anything about it until, hopefully, after the court decision."

The players are currently fighting for free agency in an antitrust suit in Minneapolis. They hope to either win free agency in the courts or force the NFL owners to give them free agency in a settlement.

That's why Sanders, 29, wanted to sign only a two-year contract. He hopes to have a shot at free agency when his current contract expires after the 1993 season.

"If that free agency comes up, that'll be great. That's why I did the two-year deal," he said.

He also hopes to return to his 1988-89 form when he caught 73 and 80 passes . The last two years, when the Redskins put more emphasis on the run and cut back on their three-wide-receiver offense, he has made only 56 and 45 catches.

"I'm looking for a real big year," he said. "It's tough when they're running the ball and you're a receiver, but, like I said last year, as long as the formula is working and we're winning, I'm a happy man."

Meanwhile, the Redskins are happy that they've got one less holdout to deal with.

"It's one problem solved," coach Joe Gibbs said. "We've got to keep working on them."

They're making no progress on getting either Howard or quarterback Mark Rypien into camp and corner back Darrell Green and offensive lineman Jim Lachey could join them on the holdout list next week when the rest of the veterans are due.

Referring to the fact that even though Sanders is back, Howard and Rypien are still out, Gibbs said, "We've got two down right now."

He probably meant to say one down, two to go.

That's what happens to a coach when his Super Bowl MVP quarterback is passing up training camp to go camping in Canada.

NOTES: WR Art Monk, who usually shies from publicity, was convinced to pose yesterday for the cover of the Sports Illustrated Pro Football issue. Monk has caught 801 passes and will break Steve Largent's record of 819 early in the season. Whether he'll talk about it after he does it is another question.

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