It was a question fans of America's Team and even quarterback Troy Aikman raised after the Cowboys turned in their second straight dominant performance of the young season in defeating the Denver Broncos, 31-21, before a sellout crowd of 64,578.
There was speculation by some Cowboys management and the media that owner Jerry Jones might have created a major distraction by signing cornerback Sanders to a seven-year, $25 million contract, including an NFL-record $12.5 million signing bonus.
The bonus alone is worth nearly as much as Pro Bowl running back Emmitt Smith's four-year contract and more than Aikman's $11 million package. But none of the Cowboys seemed to be playing with their pocketbooks in mind yesterday.
"Yeah, Deion was some distraction," coach Barry Switzer said facetiously.
Only a 59-yard pass by John Elway in the third quarter to Anthony Miller and a Broncos touchdown with 47 seconds left kept this from being a rout.
Asked about Sanders' anticipated addition to the Cowboys after the San Francisco Giants complete their baseball season, Aikman said: "I was in favor of signing Deion, but didn't think we needed him to win a Super Bowl. We had won two of the last three without him."
There was certainly no signs of wounded egos or a lack of commitment with Aikman and Smith.
In the third quarter, Denver had the ball for only 94 seconds. Throughout the second half, the massive Cowboys offensive line, led by tackles Nate Newton and Erik Williams, wore down the Broncos.
After the game, Aikman was sporting a large bandage on his chin, the result of catching a helmet in the third quarter. And Smith, who rushed for 114 yards on 26 carries, briefly was knocked out of action late in the same quarter after banging heads with a defender near the goal line.
But these were only momentary setbacks. Aikman completed 18 of 31 passes for 196 yards and a pair of touchdowns and scored one himself on a 2-yard bootleg in the second quarter that gave the Cowboys a 14-0 lead.
The game had been heralded as a shootout between Aikman and Elway, but the Broncos quarterback has had little success over the years against NFC rivals, and this was a similarly DTC frustrating afternoon.
Elway finished the day 11 for 24, for 152 yards, most coming on his 59-yard throw to Miller.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys try to handle the Sanders Affair as best they can.
When someone asked Aikman if he could envision Sanders, who has expressed his desire to play on offense occasionally, as one of his receivers, he said: "I'm sure Deion can do a lot of things on the field, but I've never thrown a ball to him as a receiver, although I've thrown a few to him as a defensive back. He wants to be a 60-minute man, but to think he'll instantly become another Michael Irvin is a little naive."
And it also may be naive to suggest the Cowboys cannot beat the 49ers without Sanders on their side.
Delays for Deion?
Deion Sanders will undergo arthroscopic surgery on an ankle as soon as baseball is over, possibly delaying the start of his football season with Dallas another three or four weeks.
In an interview shown yesterday on Fox's "NFL Sunday" pre-game show, Sanders said he could miss three or four weeks, but added, "I've seen guys undergo arthroscopic surgery, and they're playing the next week."
The Cowboys were counting on Sanders being available for the Green Bay game Oct. 8. With surgery, he might be out until the Cowboys entertain rival San Francisco on Nov. 12.