BALTIMORE -- There was no Prime Time this time. Deion Sanders was on the inactive list and missed a chance to strut his stuff on Monday Night Football.
Sanders had stressed that playing in the national spotlight for the Ravens
wasn't the reason he ended his three-year retirement. It would be a
stretch to say Sanders has mellowed at age 37, but his perception
of what is important certainly seems to have changed.
In his prime, when he went to eight Pro Bowls as one of the most dynamic players in the NFL, Sanders never would have let an hamstring injury rob him of the opportunity to make an
interception or two on Monday night.
But things are different now.
"It's up to my legs," he said last week. "We don't really
want to rush things. We have a journey here, not a sprint."
It's the same philosophy he carried into Cincinnati one week
earlier after getting hurt on Sept. 19. Yet one couldn't help
believing Sanders merely passed on facing the Bengals in order to
be ready for prime time against the Chiefs.
He scoffed at that suggestion, insisting that Monday night
football is no different from Sunday afternoon football.
"Every game is prime time, every game is a big game. Games
don't have a bigger meaning to me; every game is the same,"
Sanders said. "Every game I step out there on the field I get my
opponent's best. So just because the game is slated to be on Monday
night, it doesn't matter to me. Even when I'm at practice, I get my
Since his return, Sanders has had little opportunity to shine as
the Ravens' fifth defensive back on passing downs. Cleveland didn't
test him in the opener, and he left the game against Pittsburgh
after chasing down Plaxico Burress on a long pass that fell
Sanders returned a punt 23 yards in that game, but was penalized
15 yards for removing his helmet on the field after the play. His
statistics after three games are hardly Pro Bowl worthy: One
tackle, one pass defensed and two punt returns for 28 yards.
Yet he acted insulted when asked if had something to prove
"I don't have to prove nothing to nobody. Please," he said.
"You've got to be kidding me. I didn't come back to play football
to prove anything. I think the limited time I've been out there on
the field, or even practiced, I proved I could play the game at a
Sanders' value to the Ravens transcends his ability to make big
plays. He has become another coach on the practice field, sharing
his knowledge of the game with those possessing far less
"He means a lot to me. He's taught me so much about this game,
and he's going to teach me a lot more," safety Ed Reed said.
"It's a daily process with Big Bro ... and he knows we're ready
for him to come back and do his thing."
Sanders joined the Ravens because he believes the team has a
decent shot at reaching the Super Bowl. He wanted to come along for
the ride, and so far it's been a blast.
"It's been unbelievable. I think the guys think the old man is
playing around too much, because I'm having such a good time," he
said. "Not only on the field, but off the field, when we go out to
eat, the meetings. I want to take advantage of all the situations
in the time that I have left."