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Revenge is a dish best served chilled That seems to be the Washington Redskins' position on cornerback Deion Sanders. He may eventually leave the nation's capital with a sackful of gold, but not on his timetable. The Redskins are determined to pick the departure time.

Here's a sure bet — Sanders won't play for the Redskins this season. The hard part is picking the release date. It could be tomorrow. It could be mid-October. It will be a mounting distraction at times. Hey, it has already consumed Redskins fans for a week.

If the Redskins are going to eventually cut Sanders, why don't they just do it and move on? Oh, that would be too simple. Owner Dan Snyder wants some of that $8 million signing bonus back. And who can blame him, given Sanders has essentially walked away from the seven-year deal after one season? It's just not going to be easy to collect the money.

The Redskins don't have to cut Sanders to fit under the salary cap after releasing safety Mark Carrier on June 5. It's a tight squeeze, but the Redskins can make it and let Sanders sit on the vine until he's done playing for the Cincinnati Reds in October. Sanders has one week to report after finishing baseball.

If Sanders doesn't report, his contract is breached. The Redskins would place Sanders on the "Did Not Report'' list and try to reclaim the remaining $6.8 million of his bonus.

But Sanders wants out now. While claiming to be through with football, it's clear he wants the option of playing elsewhere. After all, he's not even batting his 190-pound weight (.174 through June 8). Baseball may not be the long-term plan, and Sanders wants to talk to football teams before everyone spends their salary-cap money. The word is Sanders is eyeing Denver with former Washington defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes now running the Broncos' defense.

The last thing the Redskins want is for Sanders to play elsewhere, especially for a team that faces them this season. Talk about adding insult to injury. That's why they're sitting on him. It proves who's in charge of the exit and may keep him away from rivals. A mercenary who played for four teams in his probable Hall of Fame career, Sanders was never a good fit in the Redskins locker room. Indeed, two coaches complained he couldn't name 10 teammates at season's end. One teammate was upset over "Prime Time'' missing a tackle against Pittsburgh with Sanders' alleged excuse being that he wasn't going to spend the off-season rehabbing an injury. Sanders was the epitome of Snyder's off-season buying spree bust. The craziest part was the Redskins paid an $8 million bonus when NFL sources said no one was willing to pay $4 million. Snyder tripped over himself trying to get Sanders, who played the owner perfectly.

Sanders played inconsistently last season and abandoned punt returns when it was obvious he didn't have the blockers to score. Sanders' biggest play was a 57-yard punt return in overtime that set up the winning field goal over Tampa Bay. Otherwise, he looked very ordinary.

The Redskins will save $3.5 million against the salary cap this year by releasing Sanders, but lose $5.7 million next year by escalating the bonus proration. If they have to wait until baseball season ends in October, Sanders will lose $320,000 per week that the team can use to fund its injury reserve.

There will be posturing on both sides. Sanders recently said he wouldn't trust Schottenheimer as far as he could throw him. The elder coach refuses to get into a public shouting match, but team sources said a decision to release Sanders was made in April. The team is just trying to squeeze something out of a bad deal.

Gee, wonder where that burgundy suit Sanders wore at his signing is now hanging?


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