Deion is done
Sanders announces retirement from NFL
Updated: Saturday July 28, 2001 11:13 AM
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) -- Backed into a corner, the world's flashiest cornerback made a very quiet exit.
The announcement didn't come with any Prime Time flash or sentiment or any glowing words -- rather just as a one-paragraph announcement in which Redskins head coach Marty Schottenheimer told how events unfolded with Sanders' agent, Eugene Parker.
"It was evident from his comments that Deion Sanders did not want to play football," Schottenheimer said.
"With that understanding, both parties have reached a mutually beneficial agreement. Deion Sanders will retire as a National Football League player, and a financial agreement has been reached."
The announcement comes one day after Sanders left the Syracuse SkyChiefs minor league baseball team, and two days before he was obligated to report to the Redskins' training camp in Carlisle, Pa. Had he not retired, he could have forfeited up to $6.86 million of his $8 million signing bonus by staying away.
The Washington Post, citing anonymous sources, first reported Sanders' retirement on its Web site. The paper reported that the settlement reached will have Sanders returning an amount less than $2.5 million of the $8 million -- and that the Redskins will receive salary-cap relief next season for the returned portion.
Attempts to reach Sanders and Parker were not immediately successful, but Sanders indicated a decision was imminent as he cleaned out his SkyChiefs locker Thursday night.
"I've got to really get my head together and figure out what I'm going to do and what I want to accomplish," said Sanders, who hit a home run in his final game.
Sanders had previously said he did not want to play for the Redskins this season, but the seven-year, $56 million contract he signed last year obligated him to report to camp unless he was playing major league baseball. Sanders was in the majors earlier this year with the Cincinnati Reds, but he was cut July 17 after batting just .173.
Sanders' abrupt retirement -- coupled with his baseball failure -- would appear to bring to a sudden end the two-sport career of one of the most dynamic showman in sports in the last decade. Sanders combined flair with talent: The seven-time Pro Bowl selection is considered one of the greatest cornerbacks of all time, and is the only person to play in both the World Series and the Super Bowl.
"In his generation, he certainly leads the pack," said seven-time Pro Bowl cornerback Darrell Green, who lost his starting job to Sanders last year but will now get it back.
"He's an incredible business man, whether you agreed with how he carried out his business practices. The bottom line was he was an excellent athlete."
But Sanders, 33, was disenchanted and restless last year as the Redskins failed to live up to their Super Bowl billing. He admitted his season wasn't up to his usual standard and perhaps not worthy of the money he was getting paid. During the World Series, he stood in front of his football locker and pined for baseball.
"We didn't get what we wanted in terms of winning a championship," Green said. "In his mind, in terms of his performance, I think that was a disappointment, but that cannot damper an incredible career like he had."
Sanders was upset when the Redskins overhauled their coaching staff during the offseason. He said he should have been involved when defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes left the team, and said he did not trust Schottenheimer.
He then joined the Reds' organization, playing well at first. He talked of the joy he would have when the Redskins would release him to save $3.5 million under the salary cap, but that theory fell apart when he went into a baseball slump and got released by Cincinnati.
Sanders joined the SkyChiefs in the Toronto Blue Jays' organization, but his .252 batting average meant he was running out of options.
"He was going to have to play himself here," Toronto assistant general manager Dave Stewart said. "We didn't sign him to put some people in the seats and he's hitting .130."
Stewart said the door was open for Sanders to return to Syracuse if he wanted.
Sanders could either report to the Redskins and be an unhappy presence on the team or refuse to report and risk losing up to $6.86 million of his signing bonus. The retirement and financial settlement are a face-saving way out, but -- barring a change of heart -- it appears to spell the end of a Hall of Fame career.
Sanders was the fifth overall draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons in 1989. He spent one season (1994) with San Francisco, helped the team win the Super Bowl and was named defensive player of the year despite joining the team late because of baseball.
Sanders spent the next five seasons with the Cowboys before Redskins owner Dan Snyder lured him to Washington last year, supposedly as the final piece of a Super Bowl team. Instead, the Redskins went 8-8.
In 1996, Sanders played regularly on both offense and defense for the Cowboys, becoming the NFL's first two-way starter since Chuck Bednarik in 1962. He is the only player in Super Bowl history to have both a pass reception and an interception.
A master punt-returner, Sanders holds the NFL record with 18 touchdowns on returns -- fumbles, kickoffs, punts and interceptions. He has 48 career interceptions, including eight returned for TDs.
Sanders' World Series appearance came in 1992 with Atlanta.