The Associated Press
IRVING, Texas Ÿ Deion dazzled Dallas on Monday, but did owner Jerry Jones pay $35 million for a part-time player who won't play hurt?
The question became an interrogation of Jones and Sanders at a Cowboys' celebration news conference.
Jones said his doctors told him there were 15 players on the Cowboys who had worse ankle problems than Sanders.
But he quickly added, ''I want Deion to have his physical condition in the best shape. This is not a big deal. The ankle is a non-issue for me. His tolerance for pain is well known.''
Sanders attacked any thought he should be rushed into action before he was ready.
''When I step on the field I want to be 110 percent,'' he said. ''I'm not at full speed. I can't cut. If I'm limping on the baseball field I know what it will be in football. I know what I can't do.''
Sanders, who hurt the ankle in the spring when playing for the Cincinnati Reds, said he will undergo arthroscopic surgery as soon as the San Francisco Giants are eliminated from the playoff picture.
Dallas particularly wants him on the field for the Nov. 12 meeting with the defending Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers.
''I want the ankle to be the best it can be,'' he added. ''I want to give my best when I represent the Dallas Cowboys. If I score after a touchdown I want to be able to dance and have the ankle hold up.''
Cowboys players want Sanders as quickly and wide receiver Michael Irvin said ''he hurt it during baseball season, let him get it fixed during baseball season.''
Sanders, loaded down with gold jewelry and wearing a blue pin-striped suit, a Cowboys cap, and a shirt collar with ''Prime Time'' on it, had the crowd laughing when he joked he could have squeezed more money out of Jones if his mother, Connie Knight, had quit saying she wanted her son in Dallas.
''I kept telling her, 'Mom, cool it, you're costing me money,''' Sanders said.
As it was, Sanders got plenty, starting with a bonus of one penny short of $13 million. It's a seven-year deal for $35 million. Sanders gets $25 million if he opts not to play the last two years.
The original Dallas franchise cost $650,000 in 1960, which makes the Sanders salary 181/2 times that figure for a part-time employee. Jones paid $140 million for the Cowboys. Sanders will receive a fourth of that figure.
''My financial situation could have been greater,'' said Sanders, 28, who signed early Saturday morning. ''I just wanted to be a Cowboy. I've always been a star and now I'll have one on my helmet every day.''
Sanders said he knew he wanted to be a Cowboy three weeks ago, when he saw Jones on his hotel room television.
''That was the first time I saw in his eyes that he was really sincere,'' Sanders said. ''That was when I made my decision. I told (agent Eugene Parker), 'Get it done. I want to be a Dallas Cowboy.'''
The decision was cemented last week by a three-hour phone talk with longtime friend Irvin.
''That was a key conversation,'' Sanders said. ''I can't say I've had that kind of conversation with Steve Young or Jerry Rice.''
Sanders said recent criticism of him by Rice was ''just frustration.''
Sanders sees Super Bowl rings in his future. He likes the idea of having Irvin, Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman as his teammates. The Cowboys are 2-0 already this season.
''I'm going to win here,'' Sanders said. ''Hopefully more than a few Super Bowls. I know that.''
Sanders backed down on his previous statements that he demanded to play offense.
''From what I saw last Monday night they don't need me,'' Sanders said. ''I do want to play offense. I'll do anything I can to help the Cowboys win.''
Sanders said he would make Dallas his permanent home and will try to keep playing baseball with the Giants.
However, he admitted it could be tough going back to San Francisco.
Then finally there comes the matter of whether the NFL will find a cap-buster in the contract. If so, Jones gets a $2 million fine. Teams like the Cowboys and 49ers have gotten around this year's $37.1 million salary cap by extending contracts and deferring payments, often until 1999, when there will be no cap.
Coach Barry Switzer playfully told Sanders to be ready for a 3 p.m. practice.
''I've got a 5 p.m. batting practice in St. Louis, coach,'' Sanders said, grinning.
Read Next Article