It was an unwritten agreement between two strangers. Seahawks defensive end Michael Sinclair had no reason to trust Coach Mike Holmgren, but he did.

They had known each other for only a few months, but Sinclair took a gamble. He believed Holmgren when he said: "Don't go. We'll get this done."

"I think that's something missing in professional sports -- loyalty," said Sinclair, who yesterday signed a five-year contract extension worth $35 million, according to an NFL source.

The Seahawks did not release the terms of the deal, but they are believed to have paid him the largest signing bonus in team history. The amount eclipsed the $6 million given to Cortez Kennedy last year.

The contract extension guarantees that Sinclair will remain a Seahawk through the 2005 season, and likely finish his career with the team that picked him in the sixth round of the 1991 draft.

"When [Holmgren] said to take him at his word, I took it because so far the things he told me [have] been true," Sinclair said. "He's trustworthy, and I felt that trust would get it done, and it did."

LIONS: Barry Sanders said it before, and yesterday he said it again: It's over.

Two weeks and three days after he shocked the Lions with his retirement announcement, the running back put an end to speculation that he would change his mind and return to play football. According to the Detroit Free Press, Sanders, 31, informed Jocko Hughes, the Lions' security director, of his decision, and Hughes relayed it to Lions vice chairman Bill Ford Jr. and chief operating officer Chuck Schmidt.

"He was honest and straight with me," Hughes said. "And you have to respect that. He said he gave it a lot of thought and he wants to go out on top. He said, `I've got my health and I've got my strength. If I want to do something else, I can. I didn't get injured, and I've been playing football for 22 years.' "

BENGALS: Running back Ki-Jana Carter probably will miss another 10 days because of a burst cyst in his right knee. Carter, selected by the Bengals with the first overall pick in 1995, has been beset by injuries throughout his career.

CHARGERS: Wide receiver Charlie Jones likely will be out at least eight weeks after dislocating his left hip in Thursday's 31-24 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.