Past prime time
Maybe I'm in the minority but all this speculation about Deion Sanders playing football again doesn't do much for me. Just the thought of it ruins the memories of his exploits that I hold dear. I'm talking about: Deion strutting past flailing defenders on his way to a long punt return touchdown; Deion snatching a pass out of the hands of an unsuspecting receiver; Deion racing to catch a charter flight so he could make an Atlanta Braves playoff game on the same day he played for the Atlanta Falcons against Miami. Now the thought of Deion shadowing slot receivers as a Baltimore Ravens role player isn't very compelling. I want to see that about as much as I want to watch a marathon of Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica re-runs.
The problem, of course, is that Deion also remembers those moments. I'd even bet that he's his biggest fan, which isn't a good thing when you're 37 and still easily seduced by the spotlight. From where I sit, this buzz about his return has nothing to do with football. It's about attention. It's apparent that Deion doesn't know what to do without it now that he's lost his cushy, $1 million-a-year job at CBS as a studio analyst. My guess is that he saw where his television future was heading -- which was straight towards a spot on the NFL Network where he could analyze trap plays alongside Sterling Sharpe -- and decided to create a stir in the league again.
Usually, I wouldn't have a problem with this. Entertainers reinvent themselves all the time and Deion has always been as much of a persona as he is an athlete. And let me say this before I continue: I'm sure the man can still play. There are far too many mediocre cornerbacks in the NFL to think that he can't contribute. But I'm more annoyed by what has become Deion's annual search for headlines.
This is the same man who said he wanted to play for the Oakland Raiders during their Super Bowl run in 2002. Deion also declared his desire to coach the Atlanta Falcons late last season. More recently, he took batting practice at a Texas Rangers game shortly after news broke of his possible return to football. Call me a cynic, but that blatant photo-op didn't convince me that Deion was ready to get back on the gridiron.
When I think about serious comeback attempts by aging stars, I use Michael Jordan as a prime example of the right way to go about this process. He was so clandestine about his return to the NBA that it often seemed CIA operatives would've had trouble tracking his whereabouts. Jordan also came back to be a starter, which brings me to the obvious question: How serious can we take Deion when he's supposedly aspiring to be an extra defensive back in passing situations?
The reality is that Deion is a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer and a crafty opportunist -- I won't dwell on his long forgotten venture into hip-hop with his song, Must be the Money -- who's always known how to get the most bang for his bluster. But his return won't sell more tickets or merchandise. I don't even think it will put the Ravens over the top. What it will do is give Deion what he's already getting -- an ego boost. Once he's done enjoying that, I think he'll move on to the next great plan he has to keep people talking about him.
It's much easier for me to accept the comeback of Andre Rison, Deion's former Atlanta Falcons teammate, which also brings me to my three-and-out.
Rison recently signed to play with the Toronto Argonauts because he has to find some way to pay the two years of child support he reportedly hasn't been providing to his teenaged children. He's swallowed his pride, proving once again how much he wasted what should've been a stellar career.
Seven years ago, Rison was on pace for Hall-of-Fame-caliber numbers. He was in the same class as Tim Brown, Michael Irvin or Andre Reed until off-the-field problems nailed him. When you factor in his issues now -- the Atlanta mansion torched by his former girlfriend, the deceased Lisa (Left Eye) Lopes, a conviction for passing bad checks, a cameo in an MC Hammer video (remember, 2 Legit 2 Quit) and a reported four-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy in 2001 -- I'd argue that he's had the worst 10-year stretch of any star player in recent memory.
Maybe what Rison needed was a coach like Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs. He's been working his new team into the ground. During two-a-day sessions, the players usually practiced at 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., so their typical day began at 6 a.m. and usually ended with meetings that started at 10:15 p.m. "We haven't taken the pads off yet," said wide receiver Laveranues Coles on Aug. 16. "We started camp on July 25 and we haven't missed a day. I'll watch guys on television and they're practicing in helmets and shorts. We'll be in pads even on the day before the game [a practice usually reserved for a light walk-through session]. This makes the season real long."
When asked if the Redskins needed such a tough camp, Coles said, "I'd think most guys don't think they need this. But it is what it is. If it goes well and everything works out, then we needed this. But if it doesn't, we'll all be wondering what all this work was supposed to accomplish."
I saw Panthers safety Mike Minter last week and he says Carolina is winning this year's Super Bowl after falling to New England last year. His rationale? Minter has won a championship in junior high school, high school and college (at Nebraska in 1994) after finishing second the year before. I generally would laugh this off but I've started to give credence to Minter's predictions. Before the start of last season, he also predicted the Panthers were going to be "a special team."
That's all from The Blog -- until we meet again ...