Sanders: 'Working with kids is what I do'
NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders denied any wrongdoing or improprieties Sunday related to Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant, who was suspended indefinitely last week.
Sanders, an eight-time Pro Bowler before retiring from the NFL in 2005, affirmed that Bryant was ruled ineligible for lying to the NCAA during its investigation of the All-American's interaction with Sanders, not for the substance of any meeting between them.
"The problem is, people get so caught up in what I do and forget about who I am, and they really don't know who I am," Sanders said in an interview on the NFL Network. "Working with kids is what I do."
Bryant, a senior, was ruled ineligible Wednesday because he "failed to openly disclose to the NCAA the full details of his interaction with a former NFL player not affiliated with OSU," the school said in a statement.
"He's not ineligible for what went on at my house," Sanders said. "He's ineligible because he lied."
The school has said it already has begun the process of asking the NCAA to reinstate Bryant, and released documents that show Bryant is tentatively scheduled for a follow-up interview with the NCAA on Tuesday in Indianapolis.
Sanders has told The New York Times he met with Bryant over the summer at a Texas athletics center and had him over to his house for dinner, but did not work out at the facility named Fieldhouse USA.
"First of all, it wasn't a violation to come to my house," Sanders said Sunday. "When I first started even mentoring Dez, the first thing I did was call his receivers coach. His receivers coach told me everything about Dez. When Dez was late to school, he called me. When Dez was a little tardy to summer workouts, he calls me. So we have an ongoing relationship. And Dez helped me throughout the summer with my youth program as such."
Sanders said Bryant's reason for lying was likely tied to anxiety from a misunderstanding that violations may have occurred. If the NCAA finds Sanders provided Bryant with any extra benefits during their visit or was serving as an intermediary for an agent, Bryant's college career is finished.
"The problem was, they wanted to question Dez about our relationship, and Dez was nervous: 'Why does the NCAA people have me in this room with closed doors questioning me?' " Sanders said. "Now, had I been a liar and falsified any incident or evidence, my story would have collaborated with Dez. We talk three times a week."
Sanders said when Bryant visited him recently at his home in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, his former agent and friend, Eugene Parker, was not present.
"Not whatsoever," Sanders said. "His girlfriend was present, my wife was present, and we played basketball and had a good home-cooked meal."
Sanders also said he has never provided Bryant with a cell phone. The NCAA is reportedly reviewing some of Bryant's cell-phone records, as well as some of his girlfriend's.
"Never," Sanders said. "I don't do that. My relationship is not that. I give him guidance. I give him structure."
A top NFL prospect, Bryant caught 87 passes for 1,480 yards and 19 touchdowns and also had two punt returns for touchdowns last season. This season, Bryant leads Oklahoma State with 17 catches for 323 yards and four touchdowns.
Sanders described Bryant as an athlete he was "summoned to help, mentor or guide."
"To help this kid, establish structure, that's a no-brainer," Sanders said. "That's what I do, and that's who I am."
The university released a statement from Bryant on Wednesday saying "I made a mistake by not being entirely truthful when meeting with the NCAA."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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