Sanders a no-show for expected retirement

OWINGS MILLS -- Deion Sanders was a no-show at the Baltimore Ravens' final team meeting Monday, and he broke his promise to reporters that he would discuss his expected retirement. The 38-year-old nickel back known as "Prime Time" cleaned out his locker, including his name plate last Friday, but his unavailability for comment isn't a signal that he'll return for a 15th NFL season.

Sanders told Comcast Sportsnet on Sunday that this was the end of his love affair with the NFL.

Several teammates had already collected autographs from the eight-time Pro Bowl selection, and talked about Sanders in the past tense.

"I think that's just huge in the locker room to have a guy like him, who's been there and been successful," linebacker Peter Boulware said. "It's been a privilege for me to play with him. He was a great player. With the leadership he brought, the younger defensive backs looked up to him teaching them his old tricks, how to be a professional."

When reporters entered the locker room Monday, they weren't alone in looking for Sanders who left behind only a few clothes hangers that used to hold up his mink coats.

"I think Prime's hiding out right now, but I'm looking for him," defensive end Tony Weaver said. "I have a Deion throwback from '85, I mean '90. There are some players that when I'm done with my career, I'll be happy to say I played alongside them."

Team officials said that Sanders wasn't in town and had no imminent plans to make an announcement. They stressed that Sanders, an unrestricted free agent, would announce his decision, not the team.

Sanders is considered a future first-ballot Hall of Fame selection with 53 career interceptions and owns a stellar reputation as one of the game's top cover cornerbacks.

"He's probably the greatest corner to ever play the game," said cornerback Chris McAlister, who cherishes cleats, gloves and a jersey adorned with Sanders' autographs. "I got to know him a lot better this year. As a student of the game, it's amazing. I learned a lot from Deion."

ASSISTANT COACHES: As of Monday afternoon, all of the Ravens' assistant coaches remained with the team although several were sweating their undetermined status.

Secondary coach Johnnie Lynn, special teams coach Gary Zauner and receivers coach David Shaw have often been rumored to be on their way out. If offensive coordinator Jim Fassel is hired as the Minnesota Vikings' next head coach, it's possible that he could bring a few of the Ravens' assistants with him.

NOT DONE?: While Boulware, the Ravens' all-time leading pass rusher with 70 sacks, was noncommittal on whether he'll return because of concerns about his surgically repaired knee, nickel back Dale Carter and massive offensive tackle Orlando Brown declared that they want to play again.

Carter, 35, and Brown, 35, had been expected to retire. Carter is a free agent, but Brown is under contract after finishing this season on injured reserve with back and knee injuries he said have healed.

"I still want to fight," Brown said. "I'll be back. I still want a Super Bowl ring. I don't want to finish out with a season like this. ..

"Y'all talked so bad about me in the paper that I'm old, fat. Don't blame everything on the line. It's a team effort."

Added Boulware: "I would love to play, but I've got to be healthy enough to do it and help the team and not do anything that's going to damage me permanently. Hopefully, I can take the next two weeks and figure out what's going on."

QUICK HITS: Fullback Justin Green (wrist) said he's recovering well from surgery and will be ready by minicamp, as did return specialist B.J. Sams (knee). Sams said he won't require surgery. … The Ravens set a single-season team record with 139 penalties. "When you get a lot of penalties, turnovers, you're not going to win games," center Mike Flynn said. "We have to improve on that." … Wide receiver Derrick Mason elaborated on what he shied away from discussing after Sunday's 20-16 intensity-missing loss to the Cleveland Browns. "There were some things that did kind of bother me," he said. "We didn't match their intensity and that's what frustrated me. I know it frustrated a couple of guys. It wasn't a thing where we're going to be [mad] at each other until we come back and win games. It was that moment. It's over with."

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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