- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 7, 2001

Washington Redskins cornerback Deion Sanders is seemingly on the verge of being demoted to baseball's minor leagues, which could force him to report to the Redskins training camp.

Cincinnati Reds manager Bob Boone intimated to reporters Tuesday that Sanders might be sent to the Reds' Class AAA affiliate in Louisville after hitting only .174 since his May 1 debut. The Reds may regain injured shortstop Barry Larkin and third baseman Aaron Boone at month's end, along with outfielder Ken Griffey Jr., and that could force Sanders off the roster. He has only nine hits in 65 at-bats since going 3-for-3 in his first game with the Reds. He batted .459 in April at Louisville.

"I don't know how long he can practice here," Boone said. "You start kind of formulating, 'What are you going to do?' I think I know what I would do, but I can't share it with you… . I think there's some talent, some major league [ability] there. But I don't know if this is the place to practice."

Reds general manager Jim Bowden, who is a Sanders supporter, will make the decision. If Griffey doesn't return, Sanders probably would remain for the rest of the season.

"[Boone's] feelings are his feelings," Sanders said. "He has to do whatever he has to do. And I'm willing to do whatever I need to do."

If he is not on a major league roster when the Redskins open training camp July 29, Sanders is required to report.

Sanders' baseball woes have given the Redskins more leverage over him. NFL sources said the Redskins planned to release Sanders when the second phase of veteran free agency began June 1 but decided to wait because Sanders is playing poorly. The team has no firm timetable for a decision because it doesn't need Sanders' $3.5 million salary cap space.

Meanwhile, Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer said yesterday he doesn't plan to re-sign guard Jay Leeuwenburg or sign former Kansas City running back Greg Hill, as expected. Instead, the Redskins are looking for a safety to replace Mark Carrier, who was released Tuesday, and reserves at middle linebacker, running back and in the offensive line. Schottenheimer expects to make moves next week.

The team also has started preliminary contract talks with its five draft picks, but Schottenheimer expects negotiations to last several weeks.

"We'll be fair, reasonable," Schottenheimer said, "but we'll see what the market dictates."

The Redskins may have 30 new players on the 53-man roster, with a dozen starters having left this offseason. When he was hired Jan. 4, Schottenheimer said the team was only a field goal kicker away from success last season. However, he disagreed that the team is in a rebuilding mode.

"It's exciting. This is a new beginning," Schottenheimer said. "Part of that means different adjustments. We've done that. We've got a good football team. We have some holes, but everybody has those."

Yesterday's practice at Redskin Park was canceled after a few minutes because of a thunderstorm. The Redskins will work out today and four days next week before ending formal sessions until training camp.

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