Ravens' Sanders Awaits Medical Clearance

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By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 8, 2005

OWINGS MILLS, Md., June 7 -- Nearly all of the pieces were in place for the Baltimore Ravens' defense as they took the field on Tuesday morning for the second practice of their voluntary minicamp. Only one was missing: cornerback Deion Sanders, who has not been medically cleared to play.

The eight-time Pro Bowler traveled to New York on Tuesday to meet with the surgeon who operated on a toe on his left foot during the offseason. He returned to Owings Mills in the afternoon, and briefly spoke with reporters before leaving the training complex with his three children.

"Man, I don't know," Sanders said when asked if he was going to receive medical clearance. "I wish I did know. Pray for me."

Sanders's physical could not be completed on Monday, when he first reported to the team, because the doctor who performed the surgery is in New York. Sanders met with his doctor and the Ravens' orthopedic surgeon to discuss the results of his MRI exam on Tuesday. After returning to Owings Mills, Sanders said he ran as part of his physical.

Once Sanders is cleared to play, he can sign the one-year deal that is worth $1.5 million (with incentives that could push it to $4 million). Earlier on Tuesday, Ravens Coach Brian Billick seemed optimistic that Sanders would join the team soon, characterizing the delay as a logistical issue.

"Because of the nature of the injury, the surgery, we want to make sure that we've got everybody on board," Billick said. "His doctor, the expert's in New York, and we're not. It's logistics."

Sanders, who will turn 38 in August, ended his three-year retirement to join the Ravens last season. He missed two games with a hamstring injury and five with the toe injury, but still had an impact on the field -- three interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown -- and in the locker room.

He is expected to fill the nickel cornerback role, giving the Ravens another experienced star in an already impressive secondary. Two Pro Bowlers, Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle, start at cornerback alongside safety Ed Reed, the NFL defensive player of the year. Veteran Dale Carter, also a former Pro Bowler, will split time at nickel back with Sanders.

"He's a huge part of what I think we can be," Billick said of Sanders. "He was a huge asset to us last year. You saw how good we were when he was on the field, and how we were when he was off the field."

Running back Jamal Lewis is the only player not attending this week's voluntary veteran camp. Lewis is serving a two-month term in an Atlanta halfway house, part of his sentence for pleading guilty in October to using a cell phone to facilitate a drug transaction in 2000. His lawyer sought permission from the probation department and halfway house to allow Lewis to attend next week's mandatory minicamp, but the request was denied.

"Him missing the minicamps, it's unfortunate but not insurmountable," said Billick, who added that Ravens coaches and training staff members will visit Lewis in Atlanta. "He's one of those guys you don't have to have here to work hard. He works hard. It's making sure he has the right people in the rehab mode [for his surgically repaired ankle], making sure he's doing the right things in the right sequence."

Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs participated in Tuesday's practice. He is excused from next week's camp, since he is scheduled to appear in the Maricopa County (Ariz.) Superior Court on Monday. Suggs, who is facing two counts of aggravated assault stemming from an incident in March 2003, rejected a plea agreement last month.

Ravens Notes: Tight end Todd Heap (shoulder and ankle surgery), guard Edwin Mulitalo (arm surgery) and running back Musa Smith (broken leg) are being held out of minicamp.


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