Sanders sticks up for Irvin, T.O

OWINGS MILLS -- Deion Sanders went beyond his job as the Baltimore Ravens' nickel back and got on his soapbox Wednesday to defend two of the NFL's most controversial figures. Sanders stuck up for former Dallas Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin and suspended Philadelphia Eagles wideout Terrell Owens.

Irvin was arrested Sunday on an outstanding warrant for an unpaid speeding ticket in Irving, Texas and was charged with misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia after police discovered a marijuana pipe in his automobile.

The ESPN analyst, who has a history of problems with drugs including a past no contest plea for cocaine possession, claimed that he confiscated the pipe from a friend struggling with drug addiction who showed up at his house on Thanksgiving, put it in his car and planned to dispose of it but forgot.

"Michael Irvin is totally innocent," Sanders said. "I know the whole situation, and it isn't what it seemed. From his history, we were able to jump to conclusions and we shouldn't do that.

"This is a country that says we're innocent until proven guilty, but it seems like it's the direct opposite. He's my buddy. We've got to back each other in tough times, and this is a tough time for he and his family. He was really trying to look out for one of his friends. Let's move on."

Sanders sharply criticized the Eagles for suspending Owens for four games without pay and banishing him for the remainder of the season after repeated insubordination toward the coaching staff and character assassination of quarterback Donovan McNabb.

"I feel bad for T.O., it's not right," Sanders said. "Just because a guy won't say he's sorry, he's out of the game of football for the season. It's like someone working a job 9 to 5 and they don't apologize to their boss, they're fired. A man should be able to work and make an honest living and do what he loves to do.

"Yeah, he may have made a mistake and said something about his quarterback, but so what? Let's move on. People talk about people everyday, but that doesn't mean you should be able to take away my livelihood. He's a football player, let him play football."
When Owens, who tried in vain to get a new contract, refused to apologize for his verbal assaults on McNabb, the Eagles suspended him.

"T.O. wasn't a problem until he asked for his money," said Sanders, who called Owens a dear friend. "When management is wrong, who gets punished?"
TRAINING ROOM: Safety Ed Reed and middle linebacker Ray Lewis remain questionable to return Sunday against the Houston Texans after missing the last six and five games, respectively.

Reed (high-ankle sprain) practiced and Lewis (hamstring pull, thigh bruise) didn't.

"I've not been told by anybody that it's a season-ending injury or that it has gotten anything but better," Ravens coach Brian Billick said of Lewis. "The imaging looks good. The strength seems real good, but I'll leave it to the experts."
Could Lewis opt to not return this season because of risk of further damage or the team's underachieving season?

"No, do you think Ray Lewis would do that?" Billick said. "When Ray feels ready to go, there's no question in my mind and there's nothing in his history that would say he wouldn't go."

Running back Chester Taylor (questionable, foot) returned to practice. Cornerback Chris McAlister (questionable, hamstring) and tight end Todd Heap (probable, foot) didn't practice.
Running back Musa Smith (leg) was placed on injured reserve and fullback Justin Green (fractured wrist) is out.

Green is out for two to four weeks after having a pin surgically inserted in his wrist and is expected to be in a cast for 12 to 14 days.

Safety Will Demps has a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament and is slated for injured reserve, but the impending unrestricted free agent might be able to play next season.

"The prognosis for rehabbing is very good, so we're thrilled for Will," Billick said.

Offensive tackle Orlando Brown (back) is questionable along with offensive guard Keydrick Vincent (thigh). Return specialist B.J. Sams (lower leg) is probable.

BACK IN TOWN: The Ravens signed running back Jamel White, who rushed for 62 yards in six games last season in Baltimore after also trying out Quentin Griffin and Alex Haynes.

White was released by the Detroit Lions early in the season and kept busy by working on apartments he owns in Cleveland.

"I've been just trying to keep busy, keep my mind off things," said White, who's slated for special-teams and possible running back duties against the Texans. "You just have to keep the faith."

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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