- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 28, 2001

Cornerback Deion Sanders has decided to retire, abruptly ending a probable Hall of Fame career that finished with a brief tenure and a summerlong standoff with the Washington Redskins.
Sanders and the team reached an agreement yesterday that allows him to retire, effective today, while keeping most of the $8 million signing bonus he received last summer as part of a seven-year, $56 million contract.
In return, Sanders goes on the reserve-retired list, preventing him from signing with another NFL club.
"My discussion with [agent] Eugene Parker indicated Deion didn't want to play football any longer," Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer said last night. "With that in mind, we came to a mutual understanding. It's all part of the business. We're going to move on."
Sanders forfeited approximately $500,000 of his signing bonus, for which the final installment — scheduled to be $2.5 million — comes due March 1. That installment now will be about $2 million.
The move saves Washington $3.625 million against the salary cap this season, allowing the team to sign its top two draft picks, make final free-agent additions and create an injury fund. The savings are the same as if Sanders had been released after June 1.
The cap rebate for the bonus money Sanders is returning will come in 2002. Sanders, assuming he was released after June 1, would have counted $5.714 million against the 2002 cap even though he was no longer on the team. He now counts about $5.2 million.
Sanders, who turns 34 on Aug. 9, retires as one of the NFL's greatest cornerbacks and most flamboyant players. A two-sport star, two-way football player, two-time Super Bowl champion and seven-time Pro Bowl selection, Sanders earned millions of dollars and had a unique love-hate relationship with fans across the nation.
He began his 12-year NFL career as the Atlanta Falcons' top pick (fifth overall) in 1989. He spent five seasons with the Falcons, one with the San Francisco 49ers (winning the 1994 Super Bowl), five with the Dallas Cowboys (winning the 1995 Super Bowl) and one tumultuous, mostly disappointing year with the Redskins.
Sanders was viewed as the final addition in a high-profile string of signings last off-season that was supposed to take Washington to the Super Bowl. Instead, a team with the highest payroll in NFL history — approaching $100 million — collapsed down the stretch and finished 8-8.
Sanders might return to baseball, where he has spent the majority of this football off-seasons. He left the Toronto Blue Jays' Class AAA affiliate in Syracuse, N.Y., on Thursday night in anticipation of reporting to Redskins training camp tomorrow in Carlisle, Pa.
Sanders would have been allowed to skip training camp — and even regular-season NFL games — as long as his absence was due to playing major league baseball. That unusual clause was written into his Redskins contract when it appeared his baseball days were finished.
But Sanders remained interested in baseball. A promising spring training stint with the Cincinnati Reds — coupled with his unwillingness to play for Mr. Schottenheimer because the coach had parted ways with well-liked defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes — made the clause suddenly relevant.
Sanders was called up to the Reds on May 1 after a torrid stretch at Class AAA Louisville, and he went 3-for-3 with a home run in his debut. By mid-May, the Redskins internally decided to release Sanders after June 1, when cap rules make it easier to cut high-priced players.
But Sanders was mired in a deep slump by that time and didn't recover as June 1 came and went. Washington delayed cutting Sanders and made other small moves against the cap to compensate for acquisitions. The Redskins' hope was that Sanders would be so reluctant to play for them that he might give up part of his signing bonus to avoid doing so.
Sanders ended up being designated for assignment by the Reds on June 15 after batting just .173 in 32 major league games. He signed with the Blue Jays on June 27, but his contract contained no assurances of a call-up to the majors.
Sanders hoped that he could play his way onto Toronto's 40-man roster by tomorrow, a scenario under which he would have reported to Redskins training camp but likely earned a release from the club because major league rosters expand to 40 players Sept. 1. Instead, Sanders elected to end his celebrated career.

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