Deion Sanders' Entrance

`Neon' in purple

Supreme showman's quiet side on display

Just-signed cornerback keeps glitz to minimum on first day

September 02, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

The Ravens are banking that Deion Sanders creates more of a spark on the field than he did at his first news conference.

Known as one of the most lively and flamboyant athletes of his era, the unretired Pro Bowl cornerback was surprisingly as subdued as his attire - a white Ravens hat, a black T-shirt and a bulky gold chain - before a jam-packed room of cameras and reporters yesterday.

His answers were sometimes short and bristly. His trademark smile was flashed only a few times.

Maybe it was a lack of sleep. He was so excited about his first practice back that he reported to the Ravens' practice complex at 6:25 a.m.

Maybe it was a lack of energy. After finishing his first workout with the team, he had a private, 20-minute session with secondary coach Johnnie Lynn before meeting with the media.

Whatever the reason, it seemed as if Sanders was more ready for nap time than "Prime Time."

The moments he showed the most emotion came when reporters asked if he could play at his usual dominant level at age 37.

"When did I stop being Prime Time?" Sanders said. "I didn't get that memo."

So far, the glitz of "Prime Time" is missing.

Where was the Sanders that showed up at his first news conference with the Washington Redskins dressed in a burgundy-and-gold suit? Where was the Sanders who once playfully suggested that the NFL rename the cornerback position "Deion"?

The one part of his previous persona that did surface yesterday was his confidence.

Sanders, who last played in 2000, said he never doubted during recent workouts at his Dallas-area home that he would eventually end his three-year retirement.

"I prepare to win. I prepare to dominate," he said. "I prepare to conquer. I prepare to win it all. That's one of the reasons I'm here."

Sanders did not travel with the team for tonight's preseason finale against the New York Giants but might go up on his own to be with the team. His main focus for the next week is to continue to work toward playing in the Sept. 12 regular-season opener in Cleveland, staying behind to work with Lynn on technique and the playbook.

But Sanders, who will play nickel back for the Ravens, wouldn't guarantee he would be ready for Week 1.

"I'm taking a crash course over this next week," he said. "Hopefully, I can contribute. If I can't, I can't. I'll prepare for the second week."

Other topics addressed by Sanders were:

On why he came back: "I want the opportunity to win it all. That's it. To win it all."

On whether he would have come back and played with close friends Ray Lewis and Corey Fuller if the Ravens weren't Super Bowl contenders: "Definitely not. You got to understand: I walked away from how many millions of dollars over in Washington for the same situation - I didn't think the team could get it done."

On the uniform number he will wear because Chris McAlister has No. 21: "I don't know right now. I'm letting my kids decide that."

On his view of the Ravens: "I see one of the best defenses ever assembled. I see an offense that is just a couple of big plays away from being an explosive offense. You have eight guys in the box to stop your All-Pro running back [Jamal Lewis]. You have to have a couple of receivers step up and make big plays and you'll have a Super Bowl team.

On his role as a mentor for the Ravens' younger players: "If I can help myself first, I can help them. If I help this team, I can help them. You don't walk into a situation loaded with Pro Bowl-caliber players and go to teaching. You walk in there, do your job and bust your butt every day in practice, and maybe then, they will come to seek advice. Then, I'm willing to help."

On what happens if his body can't hold up: "I feel like I did when I just stepped off the field at 27. That's the way I'm feeling right now. Let's focus on that, not the negative."

On the league's new emphasis on a rule that prohibits defenders from making contact with eligible receivers beyond 5 yards from the line of scrimmage: "I never was a big guy to get penalized, anyway, so, I'm really not concerned about it. I've been practicing with that rule."

On how he will fit in with his new teammates: "The nucleus of this team I already know. And the most dominant personality [Ray Lewis] is like a little brother to me. I've never played for an organization where I have affected the chemistry. Everything I've ever touched in life, I've added to and haven't detracted from."

On the possibility of tarnishing his legacy: "I've got 12 years worth of great film that they can't erase."

Ravens tonight

Preseason matchup: Ravens (2-1) vs. New York Giants (1-2)

Site: Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.

Time: 7

TV/Radio: Ch. 45, Comcast SportsNet/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line: Giants by 3

Inside

Bubble: Veterans are among those competing for final roster spots. Page 4C

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