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Chargers Block Sanders’ Return to NFL

December 25, 2002

NEW YORK (AP) _ Deion Sanders will not become a member of the Oakland Raiders. Nor will he return to the NFL this season.

The San Diego Chargers, one of five AFC teams to put in claims, were awarded the former All-Pro cornerback Tuesday. As a result, Sanders can’t fulfill his plan of returning to football with Oakland.

Nor can he play for the Chargers because he will have to be placed on its reserve-retired list, the same list he was on with Washington, which released him Monday.

The only way Sanders could have returned this season was to clear waivers and then sign with the team of his choice, presumably the Raiders.

According to a source within the league who requested anonymity, all the teams that claimed Sanders were AFC teams that didn’t want to face him in the playoffs. In addition to San Diego, Sanders was claimed by Indianapolis, Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Kansas City.

The Titans and Steelers, along with the Raiders, are the only teams in the conference assured of playoff berths.

The Raiders, at 10-5, are tied for 27th on the claiming list. The Chargers, at 8-7, had the worst record and thus the first shot at Sanders among those who put in claims. The Chargers are barely alive in the playoff hunt. They must beat Seattle on Sunday, then get help from several other teams in other to clinch a wild-card spot.

``We will always do what’s in the best interest of the San Diego Chargers, for now and for the future,″ Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer said in a statement. ``We have not been eliminated from playoff contention. We’re not going to concede anything to what could be a potential playoff opponent. We’re going to continue to put ourselves in the best possible position to be successful.

``Should Deion decide he wants to play in the future, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss that with him at the appropriate time,″ Schottenheimer said.

Coincidentally, in September 2001, Sanders called Washington ``a team in disarray″ and said Schottenheimer, then the Redskins’ coach, was the reason he retired rather than return to the team.

``I was in a stage of my career where I didn’t want to accept change,″ Sanders said at the time. ``I came in under the assumption that (ex-coach) Norv Turner was going to be in place. I didn’t see a winning forecast in the future. (Owner) Dan Snyder allowed Schottenheimer to have control of the whole situation. This is the 21st century. Guys are not buying into his system.″

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.″

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.

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