Sanders' goal: happy, healthy return

Cornerback passes physical

Ravens won't rush recovery

Pro Football

June 09, 2005|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Flashing his charismatic smile and delivering catchy sound bites yesterday, Deion Sanders proved "Prime Time" hadn't missed a step behind the podium.

Now, the 37-year-old cornerback has to convince everyone he has the same ability on the field.

After passing a physical that spanned three days and signing his one-year, $1.5 million contract, Sanders said he returned to the Ravens because of "unfinished business," alluding to the fact that he wanted to end his stellar career with a memorable season and not an injury-marred one.

"If this is my last go-around, I want to go out with everything I've got," he said.

His afternoon news conference was often entertaining and engaging yet rarely insightful.

The Ravens' nickel back danced around questions about whether he will retire after this season and gave few specifics about when his left foot would be fully healed. He had minor surgery on it five months ago.

Sanders said he has been doing two-a-day workouts since June 1, focusing on sprinting, running long distances and backpedaling. The trouble has been cutting and changing directions.

Asked if he'll practice today at minicamp, Sanders said, "Hopefully they'll allow me to do so. I feel good and I look good. If women weren't present, I would take off my shirt and show you how good I look."

The seven-time Pro Bowl defender estimated that he'll be able to cut "soon."

"They're being cautious and they want to take it slow because they want me 110 percent the first [regular-season] game instead of 110 percent the first preseason game," Sanders said.

Sanders attempted to practice yesterday, coming out of the locker room wearing a white No. 2 jersey and holding his helmet. But team officials told him that his surgeon and Ravens doctors hadn't talked yet, meaning he had to wait a couple more hours before being medically cleared.

There is a concern about rushing Sanders back, especially after toe and hamstring injuries forced him to miss seven games last season and fail to finish two others.

Coach Brian Billick said the team might pace Sanders and put him on the "Todd Heap plan." Heap, who is recovering from offseason ankle and shoulder surgery, is scheduled to miss most of training camp and possibly half of the preseason games.

"It's going to take a certain process to get him ready for the season," Billick said of Sanders. "But I'm very confident that it's all going to work out.

"Deion is one of those rare breeds that all you have to run is the `Cat' defense: `You cover that cat and we'll do the rest.' "

Sanders is also a rare showman at the microphone, providing some memorable lines.

On whether his high-profile career makes him a target for younger receivers: "Definitely, someone wants to mount me and put me in their living room."

On a Ravens secondary that will have players with a combined 16 Pro Bowl appearances: "It could be one of the best secondaries assembled. And once we get the ball in our hands, start up the band because it's going to be something to see."

On his speed: "I arrived in late August [last year]. My hamstrings arrived in September some time. I think it will be better because we're all going to show up at the same time this year."

But one question remains: After being sidelined nearly half of last season, how many times will Sanders show up on the field?

"If I stay on the field, I'm going to make plays," he said. "My teammates, fans and coaches want to see me do my thing. ... I gave everyone a commercial last year. I want to give them a movie."

NOTES: Fullback Alan Ricard (knee), who practiced earlier this week, was pulled from team drills and worked off to the side with trainer Bill Tessendorf. Heap (shoulder and ankle), guard Edwin Mulitalo (arm) and running back Musa Smith (leg) also are being held out of minicamp.

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