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Sanders' return to Ravens remains on hold


When Deion Sanders exited the Ravens' training complex yesterday, he lacked the confidence that has defined his "Prime Time" persona.

Appearing more doubtful than bold, the seven-time Pro Bowl cornerback said he will learn today whether he'll receive medical clearance to rejoin the Ravens.

Sanders, who will turn 38 in August, spent most of yesterday in New York, where he visited with the surgeon who performed minor work on his toe five months ago.

It is believed the meeting centered on the magnetic resonance imaging exam of Sanders' left foot, which sidelined him for five of the final eight games in 2004.

When asked if he would be medically cleared, Sanders said, "Man, I don't know. I wish I did know. Pray for me."

In less than a day, Sanders' return has gone from certain to cloudy.

The Ravens have agreed in principle with Sanders on a one-year, $1.5 million contract, but the offer won't be finalized until the unusually prolonged two-day physical is settled.

Dr. William Hamilton, Sanders' surgeon who specializes in athletes and dancers, declined to comment and referred all questions to the Ravens. But team officials didn't offer much more information.

"I'm not going to speculate on things that I don't know, so we've got to wait for the doctors to look at the MRIs and visit with him," coach Brian Billick said. "We wanted to send him to the experts, so it's just a matter of administration right now."

After his trip to New York, Sanders returned to the Ravens' complex and jogged the perimeter of the practice fields about four times, saying it was part of his physical. But a physical typically takes hours, not days.

The Ravens' medical evaluation of Sanders began Monday morning and extended into yesterday because his MRI results had to be sent overnight to Hamilton.

Sanders had expected to be cleared yesterday morning after Hamilton discussed the exam with Dr. Leigh Ann Curl, the team's chief orthopedic surgeon. But as the Ravens took the field for their second practice of minicamp, Sanders was traveling to see his surgeon.

Team officials have contended that these snags are no cause for concern. When Sanders left the Ravens' facility yesterday, he walked to his black sport utility vehicle without a limp.

"Because of the nature of the injury, we've got to make sure we have everybody on board with his experts," Billick said. "So it's just logistics."

In another unexpected turn, Terrell Suggs surprised his teammates by reporting to his first offseason practice. The Pro Bowl outside linebacker is scheduled to go on trial June 13 in Phoenix, Ariz., for two counts of felony aggravated assault.

"I've never had so much fun at practice in my life," Suggs said. "It's been a little crazy offseason for me."

The charges stem from a March 2003 fight after a basketball tournament, just weeks before the Ravens drafted Suggs with the 10th overall pick of the first round.

After several postponements, Suggs recently rejected a plea bargain that would have allowed him to avoid a trial.

"I'm not going to take a plea bargain for something I didn't do," Suggs said. "I didn't want to destroy my name or my family's name."

NOTES: Todd Heap, who had offseason surgery on his ankle and shoulder, has begun lifting weights and running. The two-time Pro Bowl tight end said he wants to be able to run routes by training camp but doesn't know how much he'll participate in the early practices. ... Receiver Mark Clayton, the Ravens' first-round draft pick, made two touchdown catches despite double coverage. ... Linebacker Ray Lewis declined to talk to the media and safety Ed Reed was not made available to comment. Both are attending their first offseason camp.

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