CARLISLE, PA., JULY 23 -- Ricky Sanders's first day of training camp was pretty much what he expected. One teammate nicknamed him "A.J. Foyt," two others offered to accompany him to a news conference and his head coach scolded him for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It was not the worst of days, not the best of days. It was a blazing, muggy one at Dickinson College, and as the Washington Redskins held their first practices of the new season, Sanders found himself an unwilling center of attention.
"People know me and they know what kind of person I am," he said. "There has been a negative image about me, so much negative stuff said about me the last few days . . . But people know I'm not the type of person that would do something like that. I know I'm innocent."
Sanders spoke only vaguely about his legal problems stemming from a May 1 incident in the parking lot of a Houston topless bar. A parking lot attendant has accused Sanders of intentionally striking him with his Cadillac after the two argued about a pair of missing hubcaps.
The man, Sam Jamus, 28, attempted to get a financial settlement from Sanders, and when that failed, he swore out a complaint against him. That resulted in Sanders being charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault in Houston last Friday. Sanders posted a $5,000 bond on Saturday and will be back in court on Friday for a hearing.
His attorneys were to meet with representatives of the Harris County district attorney's office this week and are hopeful no indictments will be returned when the case goes to a grand jury.
Meanwhile, San Antonio attorney Tom Hall today was finishing up paper work in order to file a civil suit against Sanders, claiming he had intentionally injured Jamus. He was not prepared to name a dollar figure, although he had given one to Sanders's attorneys in earlier discussions.
Hall said a specific amount of money would be mentioned in later petitions, and that he probably would name the Redskins and perhaps the nightclub, The Men's Club, as defendants.
Hall said he expected Sanders to come to Texas at some point to give a deposition. At the moment, Sanders isn't expected to miss any practice time because of the problems, which his attorneys say is nothing more than a ploy to extract money from a rich and famous athlete.
Sanders said he was told not to discuss specifics of the case, but he danced all around the subject after this morning's practice, saying he believed himself to be a victim and nothing more.
"I look bad in the press right now," he said. "I know that, but I believe the truth will come out. I'm innocent. That's the truth. I'm still a good guy. None of what has been said about me is true. I wish I could get into the details, but my attorney said I shouldn't. I will say that if you knew the whole story you'd shake your head."
Sanders's attorneys have said that if Sanders struck Jamus at all, it was Jamus who initiated the contact and that his injuries -- which Jamus says are severe -- are minor.
"All things considered, I feel pretty good," Sanders said. "I ran some pretty good routes, and the ball gets there pretty quick the first day. But it was good just to be here. I'm thankful I can be here. I'm in good spirits and really want to put this behind me and get on with football. I want this out of my mind and think about nothing but the Redskins."
He said the timing of the charges, coming 2 1/2 months after the incident, "surprised and upset me. It was sprung on me three days before camp."
He spoke with fellow members of the "Posse," Art Monk and Gary Clark, standing nearby and said he hoped a spate of bad press wouldn't erase all their accomplishments the past year. The timing of the incident could hardly have been worse because this is the season the three 1,000-yard receivers hope to get the credit they feel is due.
Not only are they marketing a "Posse" poster in a few weeks, but during the summer they established their goals as getting the Redskins back to the Super Bowl and getting themselves into the Pro Bowl.
Those are distinct possibilities since they were three of the NFC's top six receivers last season and Coach Joe Gibbs has said the passing game will be the Redskins' bread and butter in 1990.
Monk begins the season as the NFL's leading active receiver and needs 38 catches to become the third NFL player to catch 700 passes. Only Steve Largent (819) and Charlie Joiner (750) have done it.
"I talked to Art and Gary, and they're behind me 100 percent," Sanders said. "They volunteered to come talk to the press with me, but I'm a big guy and can handle it. It's really a case of greed out there. What I hope to do is play ball and get this out of the way. I just want to talk about football after today. We're tired of seeing the 49ers win every year. We're going to try and change that."
He said he realizes his problems won't be resolved quickly and that the civil suit and its tangle of depositions could drag on for years.
"I know that," he said, "but right now, it's out of my hands. The system will take care of it, and I just thank the good Lord that I'm able to come here and play. What I want people to know is that I'm the same person I was last week and last year. There are stories circulating about me that are just not true. I heard one that I was supposed to be on drugs. Listen, I'm the cleanest person in the world and they can test me anytime they want."
He arrived in camp late Sunday and met with Gibbs, who repeated earlier statements that he was disappointed in Sanders, but that he hoped Sanders was telling the truth about the matter.
"He's been a good Redskin," Gibbs said, "and he's never been in any kind of trouble. There're two versions of this story and I hope it comes out that Ricky's is the truthful one."