OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Deion Sanders is back in the NFL, this
time with the Baltimore Ravens.
The seven-time Pro Bowl defensive back passed his physical
Tuesday and formally ended his retirement by signing a one-year, $1.5 million
contract and could earn another $2 million in incentives, ESPN's John Clayton reports.
Sanders practiced with the team
for the first time Wednesday, and he expects to play in the Ravens'
season opener Sept. 12 against the Cleveland Browns.
He addressed the media early Wednesday afternoon after team practice.
"I prepare to win, I prepare to dominate, I prepare to conquer,"
Sanders said among his opening statements. "I prepare to win it
all, and that's one of the reasons I'm here."
Sanders, 37, played cornerback in his prime, but will be used as
a fifth defensive back in Baltimore.
"This game is not all that complicated. We're going to try to
ingrain him as quickly as we can," Ravens coach Brian Billick said
Tuesday morning. "We have to make sure we know where he's at
physically. He's here plenty early enough to have an impact."
Sanders has not played since the 2000 season, which he spent
with the Washington Redskins. He retired on the eve of the team's
training camp in 2001, but the Ravens are convinced he's still got
enough talent to contribute to their bid to defend the AFC North
title and advance to the Super Bowl.
"Based on people we've talked to, opinions we trust, I'm sure
there's no question he's going to be able to compete. At the level
he competed before? There's very few of us that can do things as
well as we did before. At 50, I can attest to that," Billick said.
"But what he will bring to the table for us will be substantial."
Sanders' experience will also be invaluable to a defensive unit
that will look to him for guidance. During his days with the
Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys -- when he
was known as Prime Time -- Sanders was one of the best cover
cornerbacks in the NFL.
"To have him come here is an honor," Ravens cornerback Chris
McAlister said. "There's so much that you can learn from a Deion
Sanders; he's the type of guy that can take a young DB and make him
grow up mentally, and prepare him for situations he otherwise
wouldn't get without having the experience himself."
Said Billick: "What a resource. I can't imagine our younger
players or our guys that have not had a lot of playing time aren't
going to hang on every word that this guy has to offer."
Sanders will be used sparingly at first, but that will change if
he proves to be effective.
"Everybody's made a big deal of his role here. Nickel is a
beginning point; you've got to start someplace," Billick said.
"But we'll expand it as we deem necessary."
Sanders began his comeback bid after talking with Baltimore
middle linebacker Ray Lewis and defensive back Corey Fuller, both
of whom he considers close friends.
"This man has everything. He has money, he has rings, he has
fame, he has all of that," Lewis said. "But the simple
mathematics of it all is he's just coming back to have fun and play
football with his friends."
Billick is convinced that the flamboyant Sanders will work
within the framework of the team and make the Ravens a better club.
"This is not about the money," Billick said. "This is about a
man who has a passion for a game, has a relationship with players
who have a part of this, and we're a byproduct of this. We're going
to gain from this."
Fuller said, "Deion's got five kids and he's got life in front
of him. He's coming back because me and Ray called him."
Information from The Associated Press and SportsTicker was used in this report.