NFL MVP? No, but Sanders' absence makes his worth grow
By Clarence E. Hill Jr.
Knight Ridder Newspapers
The words came softly and smoothly off the lips of Deion Sanders.
"Before you can decide how much I'm worth, you need to ask yourself.
What am I? Am I just a cornerback? Am I just a punt returner? Am I just
"What am I?"
That was roughly a month ago.
The answer to that question became painfully clear in the second half
of Sunday's 35-28 victory against the Arizona Cardinals.
Sanders is the Cowboys' most valuable player and the leading candidate
to claim another defensive-player-of-the-year award.
But most valuable player of the NFL?
No. Denver's Terrell Davis has that one seemingly locked up.
But there is no question that few players have been more integral to
their teams' performances than Sanders in 1998.
You can really judge how important a player is to his team's success
by the way it plays in his absence.
Exhibit A: the 314-yard big-toe. With Sanders sidelined with a sprained
left toe, Cardinals quarterback Jake Plummer amassed those yards and a near-comeback
victory Sunday - making Sanders' value obvious to even those who refuse
to acknowledge his greatness.
Speaking of value. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones should be prepared to offer
another record-breaking deal to Sanders, whose contract is up after next
P.S.: The bidding should start at $10 million annually and Sanders doesn't
expect to get less than the $12.99 million signing bonus he got the last
What's important right now is that the Cowboys find a way to get him
on the field Sunday for the Seahawks and quarterback Warren Moon and receiver
Joey Galloway. Sanders is not expected to practice this week, and Cowboys
coach Chan Gailey said it will be a game-time decision.
Gailey is preparing to limit Sanders' use at wide receiver and on punt
returns. Chris Warren will likely return punts, and Jeff Ogden is expected
to fill his spot in the four-receiver set.
But we also found out against the Cardinals that an injured Sanders can
be effective. He set up a Cowboys touchdown with a second-quarter interception
that he nearly limped back for a touchdown.
Sanders said he did it on reputation. Plummer agreed, saying Sanders
"He was so far off," Plummer said. "I tried to look up
the field. As I threw it ... here's Deion with a quick break to the ball."O-Line
Guard Everett McIver's imminent return from a knee injury and Mike Kiselak's
play in place of center Clay Shiver (sprained big toe) last week have raised
some interesting questions for Gailey.
Does rookie Flozell Adams, who has played extremely well in place of
McIver the past five games, keep the right-guard spot when McIver gets healthy?
And does the often-maligned and undersized Shiver automatically get his
Gailey, who doesn't have a rule regarding a player not losing his job
because a injury, said he deals with such issues on a case-by-case basis.
In the case of McIver, Gailey said that he probably will move him back into
the starting lineup when he returns from a knee injury in the next two weeks.
The case could be different for Shiver. Gailey said that he thought Kiselak
played well against the Cardinals and that he will evaluate that decision
when Shiver is healthy. "That's not a done deal, yet," Gailey
Albeit with a reserve, precedent has already been set for such a move.
Just ask defensive end Antonio Anderson, who has been available the past
two weeks after missing the previous six with a knee injury. Formerly the
top backup at strong-side end and defensive tackle, Anderson has been inactive
the past two weeks because the Cowboys are happy with the play of Hurvin
McCormack, who is backing up those two spots.Inside the locker room
The Cowboys are ahead of the game in preparing for the short week preceding
the Thanksgiving Day battle with Minnesota. Gailey had the team work on
the Vikings for two days during the off week. ... Former Country Day star
Patrick Jeffers will see more time in the regular offense in place of Billy
Davis in some three- and four-receiver sets in an effort to maximize Davis'
time. Gailey said the Cowboys are using Jeffers to rest Davis, who has taken
a larger role on special teams because of Kevin Mathis' injury.
First and goal
Last season, the Cowboys scored 25 offensive touchdowns. They have 26
through 10 games in 1998.First and 10If it seems that running back Emmitt
Smith has been passing a milestone every game, it's because he has. What
can we expect Sunday against Seattle? With 21 yards he would move past Marcus
Allen into sixth place on the all-time rushing list; he passes Jim Brown
with 90 yards. Question: Will Jerry Jones put Brown on the pass list?
Fourth and long
Cowboys left tackle Larry Allen continued his shutout tour of opposing
defensive ends. Allen has not allowed a sack this season and made Cardinals
end Simeon Rice disappear Sunday, holding him to one tackle. The Cowboys
lead the league in fewest sacks allowed with 10.
(c) 1998, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
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All content copyright 1998, AP,
KRT, The Abilene Reporter-News and Reporter