- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 6, 2000

Cornerback Deion Sanders donned a burgundy suit and gold tie but doesn't expect Washington Redskins fans to embrace their former nemesis quickly. Teammates may not consider him a leader. He might not even make an impact.

Then again, Sanders wants to win another two Super Bowls. He can see becoming a locker room presence and a fan favorite. Being "Prime Time" means living large with big dreams.

"Everyone loves a winner," Sanders said. "I have fun doing what I do, and I'm not going to apologize for the way that I do it. I'm going to keep on doing it and hopefully well. You win over fans by making plays."

He faced the largest media contingent for a player-signing here in many years with a charismatic smile, quickly displaying the confidence of a high-priced free agent expected to be the final piece for a Super Bowl run.

"This defense was 30th last year, and you guys are writing this team into the Super Bowl with or without me like it's nothing. This team was 30th. Why wouldn't you welcome me?" he said. "I may not be any impact at all. I may be a tremendous impact. It may be one game. I may not make one play until the last game of the season, and it may be the play."

The Redskins signed Sanders just three days after his release by the Dallas Cowboys. The seven-year, $56 million deal with an $8 million bonus is essentially a two-year, $12 million pact. Sanders will earn $500,000 in base salary this year, followed by $3.5 million in 2001, $6 million in 2002, $9 million in 2003-04 and $10 million in 2005-06. His salary cap number this season is $1.6 million. There is no non-baseball clause.

Washington quickly outbid Tampa Bay and St. Louis, signing Sanders before he could visit other teams.

"It's just like in recruiting," Redskins player personnel director Vinny Cerrato said. "You know if the guy leaves your place you'll never see him again, so let's get it all done while we're here."

Sanders just will run during today's quarterback school. Coach Norv Turner said it would be unfair for Sanders to work out without seeing the playbook. Sanders said his knee felt fine after arthroscopic surgery Jan. 21 but was unsure when he would practice.

"When you go to another team you have to take it to another level because these guys want to see what they've grown accustomed to seeing," Sanders said. "I want to give it to them and a little bit more, so I don't want to touch that field until I know I can give them what I need to give them."

Sanders is the latest move in a frantic offseason acquisition of marquee players like defensive end Bruce Smith and quarterback Jeff George, as well as first-round selections linebacker LaVar Arrington and offensive tackle Chris Samuels. The offseason moves have pushed the Redskins from 15-1 to 4-1 to win the Super Bowl in many Las Vegas sports books, second only to the defending champion St. Louis Rams' 7-2. While Sanders' signing didn't immediately alter the odds, one prominent Las Vegas linesmaker said the Redskins soon would become the favorite.

"If it doesn't [make us Super Bowl favorites], it definitely puts us up there," safety Sam Shade said. "It puts us up there with some of the top teams returning from last year Tampa and St. Louis."

Sanders is called "Prime Time" for his penchant to make big plays and play in big games. He's the only athlete to have won two Super Bowls with San Francisco (1994) and Dallas (1995) and played in a World Series with Atlanta (1992). The 1994 NFL defensive player of the year has made plenty of impact plays against the Redskins, including a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown last season in the Cowboys' 38-20 victory.

"When we first heard that Deion was maybe available, we decided this is something special [that] we better quickly move on," owner Dan Snyder said. "Nightmares of the last few years of Deion scoring touchdowns against us will no longer happen. Now Deion, which I consider the 'ultimate weapon,' is on our team."

Sanders downplayed chemistry as a vital factor toward winning.

"We could hold hands and play ring around the rosey all we want in the locker room," he said. "But if you're not making plays on the field you're not going to win."

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