Adds Sanders, "There's no contemplating about if I could do it. I can. But it takes time, and it takes a commitment."
Sanders won't talk about it, but friends say his dream professional year would be playing a full baseball season with the Reds, working on Fox's NFL pregame show in October and November and then signing with a contender in December for the stretch drive to a possible Super Bowl.
That scenario is a long shot, to be sure, and Sanders's time in the NFL is rapidly slipping away. Still, when healthy, he can dominate a game at cornerback and as a return man, and Jones says Sanders could be an offensive threat if he devoted an off-season to working on his receiving. It's also clear that he would miss football if he cast his lot with baseball.
"I live for these Sundays, man," he says. "Now Monday through Saturday, that's another thing. But Sundays are the best. I love shutting down my man, then I love fourth downs. I love sitting back there, getting ready to return a punt, knowing that the punter's as nervous as a man on death row whose time has come."
Bowden recently acquired Dante Bichette from the Rockies and is trying to get Ken Griffey Jr. from the Mariners. Still he wants Sanders in his outfield picture. Sanders seems to want that too. "I will tell you this," Bowden says. "When Deion was here last summer, he ordered a dozen bats. Louisville Sluggers."
"Not true," Sanders says with a laugh. "It was two dozen."
Ted Johnson Returns
Patriots Get A Needed Lift
The thought hit New England middle linebacker Ted Johnson just before Sunday night's game against Dallas: I haven't tackled anybody in a year. After undergoing arthroscopic surgery on both shoulders in 1998, Johnson tore the biceps tendon in each arm—the right arm tendon during a game against the Steelers last December, the left in a scrimmage at training camp in August. The surgery to repair the latter was particularly serious; doctors had to drill through bone to reattach the tendon.
But there on the field on Sunday night was Johnson, the backbone of New England's run defense, ready for the stretch drive. Going into the game, the Pats ranked 22nd in the league against the run, yielding 111.1 yards per game; the Johnson-led troops held Dallas, the league's second-best rushing team, to 63 yards on 23 carries in a 13-6 win. "When he came into the huddle to start the game," said New England defensive tackle Chad Eaton, "he said what he always says: 'Let's rock and roll.' I got goose bumps. He brought aggression and adrenaline to us."
Johnson got into the fray right away, assisting on the tackle on me Cowboys' first two snaps. He finished with six tackles. More important, he said he felt no pain in either arm or shoulder.