Despite optimism from Washington Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer that Deion Sanders will report on time when the team opens training camp next week, the cornerback said Tuesday he is still uncertain about his plans.
"Right now, I'm still a baseball player and that's still my focus," said Sanders, responding to a published report citing Schottenheimer's "expectation" the veteran defender will be onhand when veterans report to camp in Carlisle, Pa. "A lot can happen between now and (next week)."
Washington reports to camp Sunday evening. Monday is the team's first practice.
Sanders is hitting .237 in a 22-game stint with the Syracuse SkyChiefs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. He was released last month by Cincinnati after failing to hit consistently well at the major-league level and then signed with the Blue Jays organization. His seven-year, $56 million contract with the Redskins allows Sanders to miss camp and even regular-season games without repercussion if he is on a major-league roster.
There was speculation the Redskins would release Sanders earlier in the spring to help address a salary cap crunch, but the club carved out enough room with other maneuvers to sign a number of free agents and some draft choices. Washington would gain $3.6 million on its cap if it released Sanders now, but would have to carry a cap charge of $1.14 million in 2001 and $5.71 million in 2002 because of the $8 million signing bonus it awarded him last year.
Simply releasing Sanders would permit him to retain the entire signing bonus. If he fails to report to camp on time, the Redskins can fine Sanders $5,000 per absent day, since he is under contract. The team might also contend, sources close to Sanders acknowledged, that he has breached his contract and then attempt to recover a prorated share of the signing bonus.
There are no indications right now the Blue Jays plan to promote Sanders to the parent team, but that could change as the July 31 trading deadline approaches. Agent Eugene Parker, who insisted in the past that he will advise Sanders to report to the Redskins if he is not playing baseball in the major leagues on Sunday, said Tuesday that nothing has been decided yet.
"It still comes down to what happens in baseball," said Parker, who spoke recently to Toronto officials about this plans. "The trade deadline is coming up and we're watching that. There are a lot of rumors with the Blue Jays right now. We'll see what happens."
The deadline for making non-waiver trades is next Tuesday.
Parker confirmed he spoke with Schottenheimer last week but declined to divulge specifics of their conversation. Schottenheimer said Parker did not indicate "with any certainty" that Sanders would report to camp on time.