Dean Cain has spent much of his life in a uniform. He's done time as an all-American safety at Princeton (where he established a since-broken single-season Division I-AA record for interceptions), an undrafted free agent with the Buffalo Bills (before a preseason knee injury ended his football career), a sportsman of the future (in the aptly named movie "Futuresport") and an iconic superhero (in television's "Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman"). Next up is a set of pinstripes -- Cain plays star third baseman Conrad Dean in the CBS drama "Clubhouse," which is scheduled to debut next month.

What was it like when your football career ended?

First of all, I didn't believe that I was out. Even eight years after I was out, I was thinking, 'They can devise a surgery to fix my problem and I'll still come back fine.' I'm still kind of harboring the idea they'll be able to fix my knee and I'll be able to run around again. . . . It makes me mad, these kids are running around [in my basketball league] thinking I have no power and no speed. They've probably never had any knee problems, they're full of vim and vigor. And I want to run them into the ground, but I have a bad knee.

Ever think about making a comeback?

Listen, if somebody told me tomorrow I could have surgery, I'd want to start training. It lives inside you. I don't want the pain that I associate with football ever again in my life, but you always want to be competitive, you always want to be able to run around.

Are baseball players different than football players?

Oh, in every way. Baseball and football are just completely different sports. Football is a very physical, intimidating sport. Baseball is a mental sport, it's all technique. It's a game of wait, wait, wait -- boom, move now. Football is boom boom boom -- catch your breath -- boom boom boom.

Is your baseball character modeled after anyone?

Absolutely. My baseball character is absolutely an amalgamation of Cal Ripken Jr., Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. . . . But he's certainly not as much of an altar boy as Cal Ripken seems to be. He also dates a supermodel. He's a lot of fun to play. Put it this way, I have a lot of fun going to work. My big acting moment [in last week's taping] is barehanding a nubber down the third base line and gunning him out at first -- which I take great pleasure doing -- and then having this beautiful woman jump out of the stands and try to get to me. I mean, how bad is life?

So you don't need a stunt double?

No, God, no. God, no.

Ever get confused and try to tackle the second baseman or save the shortstop from a burning building?

No, I never get confused. I'm able to keep my sports separated. But I tell you what, I wouldn't have any trouble with a collision at home plate, I really wouldn't.

How does your interceptions record compare to acting accomplishments?

Oh, it's better than anything I've done acting. Anybody can be an actor, and that's fine, you can pretend to be anything. But to really be it . . . that's more real. The pain, the suffering that you go through to play football, it's a lot more fulfilling than just pretending to be that person.

Last question: What's harder to look good in, a football uniform, a baseball uniform or a Superman uniform?

Superman uniform, no question about it. It's just Lycra, spandex. And you've got your underwear on the outside of your costume. You're wearing red leather boots and you've got a cape. You try it.

-- Dan Steinberg

DEAN CAIN