Aug. 31, 2004
SportsLine.com wire reports

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Deion Sanders is prepared to end his retirement and join the Baltimore Ravens.

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The seven-time Pro Bowl defensive back arrived Tuesday in Baltimore to take a physical. If he passes, Sanders will sign a one-year contract laden with incentives and work toward playing in the Ravens' season opener Sept. 12 against the Cleveland Browns.

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' 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 *****, 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 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 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 safety 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 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."


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