- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 6, 2000

Whether or not it helps the Redskins get to the Super Bowl, signing Deion Sanders sure looks good. Just as signing Bruce Smith, Mark Carrier and Jeff George looked good. We have entered the Age of Appearances at Redskin Park. A player acquisition is only as good as its buzz and buzz emanates, at least in part, from reputation and name recognition and things that don't have anything to do with winning football games.

Like style. Nobody styles like Deion Luwynn Sanders. For yesterday's investiture he was decked out in a burgundy three-piece suit complete with gold buttons, a gold handkerchief and (lest anyone question where his sympathies lie) a gold tie. He was beautiful. He was Deion, Dan Snyder's latest "coup."

I put that last word in quotes because, well, we'll have to see how it all works out. Maybe Sanders will be the proverbial last piece in the puzzle. Maybe he will do for the Redskins what he did for the 49ers in '94 and the Cowboys in '95. But he'll be 33 this year, not 27 or 28, and injuries have taken chunks out of his last three seasons. Trust me: We've already seen the best of Deion Sanders. It's just a question of how much he has left.

Dan Snyder is paying a lot of money to find out $8 million up front, $12 million over the first two years of the contract. Too much money, if you ask me. But, hey, who can put a price on a Super Bowl trophy, right? If I were Dan, I'd hang a sign over Deion's locker that said: YOUR TRAINING CAMP DOLLARS AT WORK.

Frankly, I think Sanders can still play plenty. He looked pretty good to me against the Redskins last season, running back a punt for a touchdown and roughing up mouthy Albert Connell. Is he still the best cover corner in football? No, but he's among the best. And his addition improves the team at two positions his spot and the nickel back spot, which 40-year-old Darrell Green will now man.

Actually, he upgrades the club at three positions if you count punt returner. And the Redskins definitely want him to field punts. "Absolutely," Vinny Cerrato said. "He's such a threat. Teams kick away from him, kick out of bounds; he changes the way you do things."

But again, it all goes back to how much time Sanders spends on the field. He was battered and bruised by the end of last season and far from the top of his game in the playoffs. And that's what the Redskins have gotten him for: the playoff run. Perhaps having Green around to spell him from time to time will keep Deion from wearing down this year.

Norv Turner already seems to be anticipating as much. "We've got three starting corners," he said. "If one guy's a little nicked, you can give him a few plays off." But Norv insisted Sanders is "awfully healthy right now. Our doctors and trainers feel good about where he's at."

Probably the smartest move Deion made yesterday other than the burgundy get-up was showing proper deference to Green. He joked with Darrell at first, identifying him in the audience as "my father," but he quickly corrected himself.

"I'm sorry," he said with a smile. "My role model, Darrell Green."

The Redskins have gone to great lengths to grease the skids for Sanders. They didn't want Green or his many fans to feel he was being slighted, so they redid his contract and threw a couple of million dollars at him. Hush money, some might call it. At any rate, Darrell hasn't said a discouraging word (publicly, at least) about the Deion signing. And yesterday he claimed he was in favor of the move all along, even before Snyder fattened his bank account.

"I think that's questioning my integrity when you ask a question like that," he said.

That's what they pay me the big bucks for, Darrell to ask the occasionally uncomfortable question.

Sanders all but laughed off the "chemistry" issue. Chemistry, he said, comes from winning, from making plays and that's his specialty. But chemistry is a legitimate concern in this situation because Deion isn't exactly a shrinking violet; neither is Bruce Smith. We're talking about strong personalities here, guys who are presences.

And this Redskins team is much different from the 49ers and Cowboys teams Sanders joined. It's more fragile, less sure of itself possibly because of some of the individuals involved and possibly because it hasn't accomplished as much. When you bring in as many people as Snyder has this offseason large-paycheck, large-ego types it can really alter the locker room dynamic and not always positively.

The other thing you have to ask yourself and take your time answering is this: When true blue Brian Mitchell gets cut and icon Darrell Green gets moved aside to make room for "Neon Deion," does the term "Redskin" even mean anything anymore?

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