The veteran nickel back gained medical clearance after days of delays caused by concern over a surgically repaired toe in his left foot that was re-examined by Sanders' New York surgeon, Dr. William Hamilton, who specializes in treating athletes and dancers.
“Feeling good, looking good, if women weren't present, I’d take off my shirt and show you how good I look,” said Sanders, who turns 38 Aug. 9. “Trust me, 37-year-olds can’t do what I do. I don’t have personal, selfish goals. I’d like to add another Super Bowl.”
While the seven-time Pro Bowl cornerback intercepted three passes last season to finish second on the defense, he was limited to nine games because of toe and hamstring injuries. The team took caution before signing him to a contract that could be worth as much as $4 million with incentives.
“I think I have unfinished business, particularly on behalf of last season,” said Sanders, who hopes to participate in practice today as the Ravens finish minicamp. “I think there was never a doubt with my teammates or the brass of the Ravens could I perform, but I think with some of the reporters or public, it was.”
Sanders intercepted two passes against the Buffalo Bills, returning one for a touchdown, and was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week.
The Ravens appear to have no doubts about his skills, which have produced 51 career interceptions and more than 500 tackles.
"Deion is one of those rare breeds that you run that cat defense: 'You cover that cat and we’ll do the rest,'" Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Look at the film, he can play. I’m respectful of the fact that he is at a certain age.”
Yet, Sanders, who earned Super Bowl rings with the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers, became a fixture on the injury report last season.
“The only problem is how can I perform, how long can I stay on the field," Sanders said. "That’s something I need your prayers about. If I stay on the field, I’m going to make plays.”
Unlike last year when Sanders ended a three-year retirement shortly before the season, he’ll have sufficient time to prepare.
“I was at a pool laying out when they called me to come back last year, tanning, a black man tanning at a pool,” Sanders said. “When you’re older, trust me, you have to train much more than the young guys.”
Sanders acknowledged that he’s not ready yet for cutting demands of cornerback. He said he has been mixing sprints and distance running along with playing basketball since June 1.
The 1994 NFL Defensive Player of the Year claims he’s faster than last season.
“I think I arrived in late August [last year], my hamstrings arrived in September,” Sanders said. “We're all going to show up at the same time this year.”
With Sanders’ addition, the Ravens’ secondary will feature the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year in safety Ed Reed along with Pro Bowl cornerbacks Chris McAlister, Samari Rolle and Dale Carter. The secondary has a combined 17 Pro Bowl selections.
“I think it could be one of the best secondaries assembled, and that's saying a lot,” said Sanders, who also expressed a desire to play on offense.
Sanders declined to confirm whether this will be his final season.
“I know in my mind what I’m going to do, but I’m not going to expound on that,” Sanders said.
By his standards, Sanders’ entrance was understated. His only flash other than colorful remarks was a large gold chain, a stark contrast to the bright burgundy-and-gold suit he sported when he joined the Washington Redskins before retiring in 2001.
“Things have changed, I’m an old man,” Sanders said. “I don’t have to impress you. I can pull off my cape and pull off my mascara and allow myself to be me.”
For Sanders, who missed five of the final eight games with a toe injury last season, this is a chance to make a larger contribution.
“I gave everyone a commercial last year," Sanders said. "I want to give them a movie.”
NOTES: Billick said that running back Musa Smith is ahead of schedule in his recovery from a gruesome broken leg that required surgery. “We’ll have to wait until we get to training camp and make sure we approach it in a way that optimizes his chance of getting to the opener against Indianapolis,” Billick said. … Fullback Alan Ricard (knee) was held out of team drills. …Rookie defensive lineman Walter Curry won the team’s annual fishing derby, edging defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. “It’s hard to get an honest game anymore,” Billick said of a contest judged by nose guard Kelly Gregg.
In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.
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