Prime Time is ready for one more time. And ready for it to be a good time.
Eight-time Pro Bowl cornerback Deion Sanders, in an early Monday morning phone call, confirmed that he has reached a contract agreement with the Baltimore Ravens and noted that he is considerably ahead of where he was in 2004, when he returned to the NFL after a three-year hiatus from the league.
ESPN.com's John Clayton reported Sunday that Sanders had agreed to a one-year deal that will pay him $1.5 million, and could be worth up to $4 million, with incentives.
"I've been in [the equivalent] of two-a-days since around June 1, when I started working out again with my trainer, so I'm basically going to have a two-month head start over where I was last year when I came back," Sanders told ESPN.com a short time before he was scheduled for a team-administered physical exam. "I feel good. Really good. And when I felt good last year, when I wasn't hurt, I played well. So, with all the training I've done to get ready again, I know I'll have some fun. It's going to be a good time."
The results of Sanders' physical are delayed until Tuesday because a surgeon was unavailable Monday.
The eight-time Pro Bowl cornerback, and a certain future Hall of Fame member, didn't sign with the Ravens until late August in 2004, had little time to prepare for the rigors of a season, and suffered through hamstring, toe and foot problems. He missed seven full games and failed to finish two others, participated in just 21 percent of the defensive snaps, but yet still intercepted three passes, second most on the roster, and returned one of the thefts a touchdown.
Sanders, who will turn 38 in August, underwent offseason toe surgery, but said that he is completely recovered from what was considered a minor procedure.
The Ravens begin two weeks of workouts on Monday and, being able to get on the field for most of the team's offseason activities, Sanders acknowledged, is a big plus. Once he determined this offseason that he still had the desire to play, that he could perform at a high level, and that he felt fine physically, Sanders said there was no doubt that he would return to the Ravens for 2005.
It is a team, Sanders said, reiterating a point he made last year, featuring several players he considers "like my brothers." And a team that he is confident can add to his collection of Super Bowl jewelry.
"From the top on down, right from [owner] Steve Bisciotti, to [general manager] Ozzie [Newsome] and [coach] Brian Billick, it's a great organization," Sanders said. "I feel like Brian Billick is one of the best coaches, best motivators, best football people that I've ever been around. He makes it fun and, for a guy like me, who still loves to play, that's what it's all about."
Sanders would not say if this will be his final NFL campaign, but hinted it might be, and strongly suggested he wants to exit the game for good on his terms. He also said his motivation for coming back in 2005 was a relatively simple one.
Given that his legacy is already established, that he will be remembered by many as the first "shut down" cornerback, and that the Hall of Fame awaits him, likely as a first-time nominee following the mandatory five-year wait period after his retirement, Sanders said there is only one reason to continue.
"The passion is still there," he said, "and that hasn't [waned]. People say, 'Well, you can't do this anymore,' or, 'This part of your game isn't the same.' But the one thing that hasn't changed is how much I enjoy playing, how much I love it. And I especially love it with this bunch of guys."
In what will be his 14th season, Sanders is expected to split time with Dale Carter in the nickel cornerback role, and might also contribute at times on returns.
For his career, Sanders has 51 interceptions, never fewer than two in any season, and also 129 passes defensed. His nine interception returns for touchdowns rank as the second most in NFL history and he has scored 22 times in all.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.