Deion Sanders wasn't on the practice field with his Baltimore Ravens teammates Tuesday morning, the second day of training camp. The cornerback ran by himself on the sideline, stopping occasionally to offer advice or chase down a loose ball.
It's part of a program designed by Coach Brian Billick and Sanders to keep the 14-year veteran fresh as he participates in his first training camp since 2000. Sanders participated in both practice sessions Monday, which included one full-contact workout, and had a lighter workout Tuesday. He will return to the practice field Wednesday.
"Right now, I've got to gauge my body," said Sanders, who turns 38 on Aug. 9. "You know, two-a-days are pretty tough on me professionally and athletically. I don't feel fatigued or sore. I just want to make sure we don't get to that point."
Sanders ended his three-year retirement last summer and joined the Ravens in early September. He ended up missing seven games with hamstring and toe injuries, and he underwent surgery on his toe during the offseason. He said he prepared for this season by working out with his trainer, Tom Shaw, for the past month and a half.
"Nobody could have been doing what I've been doing at home for the last two months," Sanders said. "I'm in great condition and great shape. I feel wonderful."
Sanders has been shadowed by 17-year-old Noel Devine, a standout high school running back, during training camp. Devine rushed for more than 2,700 yards and 30 touchdowns in his first two varsity seasons at North Fort Myers High (Fla.), Sanders's alma mater. The North Fort Myers principal introduced them to one another with the hope that Sanders could serve as a mentor to Devine, whose parents are deceased. Sanders has become more than that.
Sanders, who has five children, is in the process of adopting Devine, according to published reports. Devine will live at Sanders's house outside of Dallas and will attend Prosper High. Sanders did not want to discuss the events that led him to taking in Devine.
"He has been like a dad to me," said Devine, who will be a junior. "I just look up to him like he is a dad. He has been great to take me in."
Devine said his dream is to be an NFL running back, and he is getting a peek at what life is like for a professional athlete at training camp.
"Do you want to talk to him? I'm teaching him how to handle the media," Sanders said, with Devine standing behind him. "I tell him to open his mouth, talk loudly and properly, and have a good time. Right?"
"Yes sir," replied Devine.
"He's chewing gum," Sanders said. "That's one thing we don't do with the media. Don't chew gum while we are talking. [At this point, Devine spit the gum into Sanders's hand.] There you go."
Steroid Talk Unavoidable
Both Sanders and Billick were asked to comment on the dominant news topic in Baltimore: Rafael Palmeiro's claim that he unknowingly took steroids. Sanders told a story to illustrate just how careful an athlete has to be regarding the supplements and medication he takes. He said he sprained his ankle while playing basketball last summer and was prescribed medication by his doctor -- medication that led to him flunking a steroid test.
"I'm like, what's going on? I never had a prior, and they tell me I flunked the steroid test," Sanders said. "That's how things are. I was on the random steroid test list every week because I took something to help expedite my ankle. That's how innocent it could be."
It turns out Sanders never tested positive for steroids. (If that was the case, he would have been suspended for four games under the NFL's steroid policy.) According to a Ravens official, he was subject to weekly steroid tests because he missed a drug test in the period in between his final season with the Redskins (2000) and his official retirement from the league (Aug. 2001). By skipping the drug test, Sanders gave the league probable cause to give him weekly tests.
Clayton Still Not in Camp
Rookie wide receiver Mark Clayton missed his second day of training camp, and Billick seems to be growing tired of the daily questions of when the first-round draft pick will sign and report.
The players taken before and after Clayton -- Jacksonville wide receiver Matt Jones (21st overall) and Oakland cornerback Fabian Washington (23rd overall) -- have reached contract agreements, and their deals help set the parameters for what Clayton may receive. Jones agreed to a five-year, $8.45 million contract Tuesday, and Washington signed a five-year, $7.8 million contract last week.
"Twenty-one's done, 23's done," Billick said. "You're here if you want to be here. It's clear-cut."
J. Lewis May Arrive Soon
Running back Jamal Lewis was released Tuesday from the Atlanta halfway house where he spent the past two months as part of a federal drug sentence. The Ravens initially expected Lewis to report to Westminster on Thursday and participate in his first practice Monday. But meetings regarding his probation may keep him in Atlanta for the rest of the week, in which case he would not report until Sunday or Monday. . . .
Rookie linebacker Dan Cody, who injured his right knee during the first practice of training camp, will be re-evaluated in a month or so, according to Billick. Cody suffered a second- to third-degree anterior cruciate ligament sprain, and the Ravens will consider signing a veteran to step into the pass rushing role Cody was expected to fill. Linebacker Peter Boulware, the Ravens' career leader in sacks, was released by the team in May but has not signed with another team.
"Peter's a viable option for us. That's really up to Peter," Billick said. "That would certainly be attractive to us, but it has to be something Peter wants as well."