- The Washington Times - Friday, October 8, 2004

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Deion Sanders walked away from the Washington Redskins in 2001 after one forgettable season, having pocketed more than $10million of owner Dan Snyder’s fortune. Sanders, who emerged from a three-year retirement at 37 to sign with the Baltimore Ravens in September, said yesterday he doesn’t regret leaving the Redskins. Far from it.

“I don’t think any of you have the guts to say, ‘You really made a great decision to leave, maybe not in the manner you left,’ but the timing was well for my departure,” said the eight-time Pro Bowl cornerback, who will play nickel back against his former team Sunday night at FedEx Field if the strained hamstring that kept him out the past two games is sufficiently healed.

Snyder made him give back just $500,000 of the $8million bonus Sanders received to sign a seven-year, $56million deal after being released by the Cowboys the previous June.

“Dan blessed me,” Sanders said. “He took care of me. I was playing baseball at [Class AAA] Syracuse, and Dan flew down there and we agreed to terms of departure. I thank Dan for allowing me to leave in that manner.”

Sanders, who briefly resumed his baseball career after departing the Redskins, denied he had an un-“Prime Time”-like time in Washington even though his tenure in burgundy and gold is more remembered for the punt that hit him in the face mask in a loss to archrival Dallas on “Monday Night Football” than his 57-yard punt return that set up an overtime victory over Tampa Bay or any play he made at cornerback.

“Let’s talk facts, not fiction,” Sanders said. “We took the 30th-ranked defense to fourth. [Cornerback Champ Bailey and I] gave up one touchdown the entire year [actually opposing wideouts caught five scoring passes]. That year was a pivotal year. We were expected to go to the Super Bowl, and it didn’t happen.

“Then they wanted to hire a new coach, and everything went backward from there. I was too old to start over. You went there to win it all. Now you’re going to start over? You know you’re not going to win it all the year you bring in a new coach. I didn’t have the type of time to rebuild.”

Sanders said he had nothing personal against Marty Schottenheimer, the old-school coach the Redskins hired for 2001, but it was no coincidence that Sanders — never one for hitting — didn’t want to play for a coach who stressed football’s physical aspects.

“I’m not going to blame everything on Marty Schottenheimer,” Sanders said. “I’m not going to give him that much credit. I’m just going to say it was great timing.”

And since there are no coaches and just three healthy Redskins who were in Washington when Sanders was, it won’t be much of a reunion if he gets on the field Sunday.

Notes — While the NFL’s scheduling formula has the Redskins and Ravens playing just once every four seasons, Baltimore coach Brian Billick wants the Battle of the Beltways to become a summer staple. “It would be criminal for us not to play them at least in the preseason every year,” Billick said. …

Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Nolan served in that role for the Redskins for three years before being fired after the 1999 season, but he says he doesn’t have hard feelings. “This is my fifth NFL team,” Nolan said. “If you have too many grudges and you stay too long, then you hate everybody. I’d much rather be here than down there, but it doesn’t go any deeper than that.” …

Ravens offensive tackles Jonathan Ogden and Orlando Brown are native Washingtonians. Brown said a lot of his D.C. buddies will be wearing Ravens hats “when and if we kick the Redskins’ butts.”

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