Ravens considering Sanders' option

WESTMINSTER -- If flamboyant seven-time Pro Bowl cornerback Deion Sanders decides to end his retirement, the Baltimore Ravens acknowledged Monday they would have an interest in signing him as their nickel back.

Although there are multiple questions regarding whether "Prime Time" can perform optimally four years removed from his last season with the Washington Redskins, the Ravens' lack of depth at cornerback could possibly force the issue. Before training camp began, the team learned that nickel back Dale Carter would miss the entire season due to blood clots in his lungs.

No decision is imminent from Sanders, 37, though, who's one of the more bombastic personalities in sports and considered a future lock for the Hall of Fame.

NFL officials and the San Diego Chargers, who put in a waiver claim on Sanders in 2002 when he tried to join the Oakland Raiders, confirmed that Sanders is an unrestricted free agent and may sign with any team if he ends his retirement.

"Sure, if he comes out of retirement, yeah, I'd stand in line with a lot of teams that would be interested if Deion wants to come out of retirement," Ravens coach Brian Billick said of Sanders, who retired before the 2001 season with 48 career interceptions in stints with the Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons. "There are a lot of what-ifs."

One question mark is whether Sanders would want to return to the grind of football after being fired by CBS when it rejected his $2 million salary demand rather than analyze games for $1 million. Sanders is slated to co-host a talk show, The Players' Lounge.

Sanders' agent, Eugene Parker, didn't return a telephone call.

Veteran cornerback Corey Fuller, a close friend of Sanders along with linebacker Ray Lewis, said he was unsure if Sanders would return.

"Deion is like a big brother to me, and I haven't heard too much from him even though we have the same agent," said Fuller, who, like Sanders, attended Florida State. "I would definitely encourage him because I don't think as a great player he went out the way he wanted to get out.

"I'm not sure he's coming back. I doubt it. He loves his life."

Sanders holds the NFL record with 18 touchdown returns, including interceptions, punts, fumbles and kickoffs.

When Sanders retired and was placed on the Redskins' reserve-retired list, it was reportedly because he was dissatisfied with his performance and playing for since-fired coach Marty Schottenheimer.

"He's Prime Time," Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed said. "I'm definitely sure that he can play anywhere."

Sanders' conditioning level and age are potential causes for concern along with whether a flashy player accustomed to the limelight could accept a part-time role.

The Ravens' nickel would currently be either Fuller or Ray Walls once Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister (contract dispute) reports to camp.

"I have the mentality to get out before your time, don't stay too long, but I've changed," Billick said. "Having a Cris Carter, a Warren Moon, a Rod Woodson, a Tony Siragusa, a Shannon Sharpe, they can push you. They have a passion for the game."

Aaron WIlson writes for The Carroll County Times

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