- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 24, 2000

Washington Redskin Deion Sanders has redefined the cornerback's role. Now he wants to rename it.
"The position has changed. I think I had a lot to do with that. I don't know why they haven't even changed the name of the position yet," Sanders said. "Instead of cornerback, just call it 'Deion.' I'm serious. Kids should say 'I want to play receiver. I want to play quarterback. I want to play Deion.' That sounds pretty good. I think they should do that."
In a wide-ranging interview yesterday that covered nursery rhymes, wine, fashion and entertainers, Sanders demonstrated why he's "Prime Time." With the easygoing delivery of a counselor, Sanders said many people find it difficult to reconcile him as both a flamboyant player and a family man who plays with his son on the practice field following workouts.
"Michael Jackson doesn't go to bed with his glove. Eddie Murphy don't go to bed telling jokes, and Jim Carrey doesn't either," Sanders said. "You want me to take my job home with me. Just because I get excited doing what I do, you can't place me inside a little box. I don't play to please you. I play to please the Lord.
"There aren't two sides of Deion. There's the side you want to talk about and the side you don't. When you're poor, they call it cocky. When you have money, they call it arrogance. I don't have to emulate anyone. Just be me."
Sanders has quickly warmed to Redskins fans who cursed him the past five years when he played for the Dallas Cowboys. He has tutored receivers in their giveaway tendencies. Sanders ran extra sprints with linebacker LaVar Arrington after practice. There have been countless requests for autographs.
After quietly blending into the locker room chemistry, Sanders knows his teammates are always watching him. Maybe that's why Sanders carries himself with a mixture of seriousness, humor and high standards. So what if he stands out? That's what makes him "Prime Time."
"I wear the same socks, the same jersey, the same pants [as everyone else]. Not the same shoes because I have a contract that is blessed," Sanders said. "The way I wear it may be different. God created us all a little different. Even twins have different names."
Sanders hasn't sought the leadership role, but it may eventually reach him anyway. On a team of marquee players dominating the record $100 million payroll, Sanders always is the focal point.
Coach Norv Turner felt Sanders has influenced the younger defensive backs most but sees an effect on the entire team.
"It starts with what you do on the football field," Turner said. "Deion's practiced hard every day. He's been very competitive, and that rubs off on everybody."
After seven Pro Bowls, two Super Bowl championships, one NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award and a slew of interception and return records, Sanders said his reputation presents a demanding standard as he begins his 12th season. The widely held belief that Sanders shuts down half the field for passers afraid to throw at him means that one reception is too many.
"A lot of corners you compare me to today, if they give up two catches they're still a great corner. If I give up two catches, it's 'he's lost a step.' That's crazy," Sanders said. "My best game, you won't even hear my name called. That means I had a great game."
Defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes said Sanders hasn't changed much in the six years since playing for him in San Francisco.
"I felt coming in that Deion is still the same man I knew," Rhodes said. "From a movement standpoint, it's still there. He's still hasn't let everything out yet. He's playing under control. When the season starts it goes to another level."
Turner will decide today whether Sanders will return his first preseason punt tomorrow against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FedEx Field.
"You don't rush wine, and you don't rush 'Prime,' " Sanders said. "Just wait on it now. It's going to be good. The longer you wait it's going to be better."
Said Turner: "Part of him feels it would be important to get a feel for it. Most of me would prefer him not to do it."
Meanwhile, don't wait for the 33-year-old cornerback to stumble. He doesn't see it happening.
"I'm like Humpty Dumpty who sat on a wall, but this Humpty Dumpty has never [fallen]," Sanders said. "So all the king's horses and all the king's men might as well be Humpty fans."

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