"I didn't know if I would go through with it"

"It was a monumental decision (to retire). I didn't know if I'd really go through with it, honestly. I knew that's what I needed to do. But it took some time to come to terms with how I was going to do it."

(DETROIT) - In a wide ranging 50-minute interview, retired former Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders painted a revealing picture of himself as torn between thoughts of quitting and being fair to his old teammates.

Sanders apologized for hurting some of his teammates in the way he departed without telling them he was even considering the idea of leaving the team he played his entire ten-year career with but said his true fans would understand and appreciate the way he left everything "between the lines."

The all-time Lions great running back said he knew about two games before his final contest against the Baltimore Ravens that he had probably played his last football game and the reason was the way the Lions treated several players on the team including safety William White and Sanders' his best friend on the team, center Kevin Glover.

"I mentioned in my book that Kevin Glover pulled me aside in the '97 season and said he was pretty sure he wouldn't be here for the '98 season because Chuck Schmidt was going to see to it that he wasn't here. When he said it, I don't think I said much because I thought there was no way that was going to happen. When it actually happened, I couldn't believe it. Who was I going to go to? Chuck Schmidt?"

Schmidt, for his part, has steadfastly refused comments on any of Sanders allegations. Many longtime Lion observers have said Schmidt was merely following the marching orders of former Lions coach Bobby Ross, now a candidate for the vacant Duke University head coaching position.

Sanders admitted that it was an adjustment for many of the players following the ouster of the easy going Wayne Fontes. "That was something we had to get over, not having Wayne there. Bobby Ross proved himself to be a good coach. One thing I always wondered about was how could a guy who worked so hard could make some of the decisions on players he made."

Still, Sanders said that even as late as the offseason of 1999 he didn't know if he would go through with his plans to quit. Sanders seemed torn between the thought of disappointing teammates, fans and the coaching staff who had built the team with him as the main cog.

"It was a monumental decision (to retire). I didn't know if I'd really go through with it, honestly. I knew that's what I needed to do. But it took some time to come to terms with how I was going to do it."

He said he wished he would have returned Ross' calls in minicamp and training camp as a courtesy to let him know his thinking, but that he felt he could be "selfish" because he gave the team everything he had while on the playing field. "I could've told them earlier but it wasn't in my consideration."

He revealed though, What made finalize his decision to hang it up was that he said he lost his passion for the game. "I may not show it on the outside, but inside, I'm pretty passionate. Passionate for the game and passionate about my play. I just lost the desire to play the game. I've always felt that once you lose your desire to play, you shouldn't go out there on the field."

Sanders said that in the coming days he would have a role in the Lions organization, perhaps in community relations including areas such as youth football. He also said he would be at a game at Ford Field this season and promised to attend his induction ceremony into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He defended his decision not to attend his induction into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame saying he was in Oklahoma on banking business that was "more important" than being at the ceremony.

While many criticized Sanders for having a press conference to promote his new book entitled "Now you see him..." Sanders never brought out the book and didn't even have any copies at the press conference. Instead he said he wanted to use the opportunity to "clear the air with you guys" --speaking of the press-- and also mentioned that he wanted to clear the air with Lions owner William Clay Ford, Sr. and let him know his retirement was not a reflection on him.

Sanders also said that Lions president Matt Millen was a big reason why he know felt comfortable resurfacing and being a part of the franchise again. He said he stayed away from the team for the last five years because he didn't know how he would be received by team officials.


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