Sanders takes step toward playing for Raiders

Posted: Tuesday, December 24, 2002

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Deion Sanders was released by the Washington Redskins on Monday, clearing the first of several obstacles for him to play for the Oakland Raiders.

The retired cornerback was on the reserve-retired list with the Redskins, the team from which he retired after the 2000 season, one year into his seven-year contract -- meaning the Redskins own his rights.

Sanders now must clear waivers on Tuesday for the Raiders to be able to sign him. It was not immediately clear whether the team wants him, despite Sanders' comments about trying to return to the NFL with the Raiders.

The Raiders would not confirm they were in discussions with Sanders.

''That remains highly speculative at this point,'' coach Bill Callahan said Monday. ''I don't want to take away or detract from the team and what we did yesterday. It's very speculative, and there is no reason to address it.''

Being placed on waivers means any of the NFL's 32 teams -- including an AFC playoff team looking to spoil the Raiders' plans -- can claim Sanders and place him on their reserve-retired list.

Sanders said Sunday he was talking with the Raiders about joining them for the playoffs. Oakland (10-5) clinched its third straight AFC West title with a 28-16 win over Denver on Sunday.

There are two ways Sanders could play for another team: by being traded or by having Washington release him.

Since the trade deadline has passed, he would have to be released.

Redskins spokesman Karl Swanson said the team wouldn't hold Sanders back from joining the Raiders.

''The Redskins have no problem with Deion going to Oakland,'' Swanson said. ''If Oakland is interested in us (releasing him), we have no problem with it.''

Sanders' agent did not return a call seeking comment Monday.

The 35-year-old Sanders announced Sunday he was considering a comeback.

''I may come back to a playoff team,'' he said Sunday on CBS Sports' ''NFL Today,'' where he's a studio host. ''I've made contact, I have spoken to my attorney, we have spoken to the Oakland Raiders.''

Raiders senior assistant Bruce Allen said the team wasn't ruling out pursuing Sanders.

''We're looking for ways to make sure we have healthy players on the field,'' Allen said Monday.

The Raiders are short-handed at cornerback: Charles Woodson played the first half Sunday despite a cracked bone in his right leg; and the team is hoping Tory James, who has a similar injury, can return for Saturday's final regular-season game against Kansas City.

Sanders finished his career with 474 tackles, 385 of them solo, 48 interceptions, 10 forced fumbles and eight touchdowns. He also was a standout kick returner.

Some of the Raiders would welcome his talent, while others believe Sanders would disrupt the team's chemistry despite the need to boost the depleted secondary.

''I don't see that starting anything up,'' Woodson said Monday. ''Whether we bring in Deion or someone else, we need help in the secondary. It's no secret.''

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