|CB Sanders confident he can avoid distractions|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 04 August 2008 22:51|
And he's ready for anything. After all, as a member of the Atlanta Falcons last year, he had a close-up view of Michael Vick's legal problems.
``You're out here practicing,'' Sanders said Monday. ``You're not worrying about what's going on.''
Now he views from afar Brett Favre's return from retirement and doesn't think that will be a problem for Green Bay Packers players after management said recently that Aaron Rodgers would start at quarterback.
``It's definitely not a distraction,'' Sanders said. ``We went through that last year in Atlanta with Michael Vick. The media and on TV and people outside may think it's a distraction, but us as players, we've got to come out here and practice. We're not talking about that on the practice field.''
Vick, the Falcons former starting quarterback, is serving a 23-month prison sentence after pleading guilty last year to bankrolling a dogfighting ring. He was then suspended indefinitely without pay by the NFL and faces state charges related to dogfighting.
New England coach Bill Belichick said it's up to each player to block out off-field issues.
``That is what it is about,'' he said Monday, three days before New England's exhibition opener against the Baltimore Ravens. ``Each person who has a job, being focused to do it so everybody else can depend on him and they are accountable for it.''
Sanders is one of three veteran free-agent cornerbacks signed by New England after star Asante Samuel left as a free agent for Philadelphia. The Patriots also drafted cornerbacks Terence Wheatley and Jonathan Wilhite.
Fernando Bryant is listed on the depth chart as the starter at Samuel's spot. Sanders could take the nickel back role of Randall Gay, who signed with New Orleans.
``I've been around this league a long time,'' he said. ``I knew they weren't just signing me and that was it. I knew they were going to bring young guys in. That's a part of the NFL. You've got to go out there and do your job.''
The 30-year-old Sanders started six of the 14 games in his only season with Atlanta. He was drafted in the fourth round in 2000 by Cleveland, where he played four seasons plus another that he spent entirely on injured reserve in 2001.
He signed as a free agent with Houston in 2005, spending two seasons there and starting 10 of the 21 games he played.
His playing time has been curtailed by numerous injuries. He missed the last seven games in 2006 and the last two in 2007.
``I think it's been bad luck,'' Sanders said. ``I missed a lot on IR, but it was nothing too serious. I'm feeling good right now so I'm ready to go.''
So far Belichick likes what he's seen.
Sanders ``has had a lot of different responsibilities for us in the kicking game, playing both corner and safety defensively,'' Belichick said. ``He's got good experience in a couple different systems so I don't think anything he is doing here is anything that new.
``He shows up with a play or two every day and he is a hard-working guy.''
On Sept. 11, 2001, Sanders was on injured reserve when the World Trade Center towers collapsed after being struck by two airplanes in a terrorist attack.
His father worked high in one tower for a fire alarms system company.
``I believe it was the 80th (floor),'' Sanders said, ``something like that, the 83rd.''
For a while, he didn't know what had happened to his father.
``It was pretty tough because you couldn't get a hold of anyone back there,'' Sanders said. ``That was probably the hardest thing - not knowing for like four or five hours, not knowing anything and just (doing) a lot of praying.
``Eventually, he got hold of my mother and then they called me,'' Sanders said.
This year, he's competing for a role on a football team - just as he did last year when the Vick story dominated the Falcons preseason.
``It was pretty tough, but it's the NFL,'' Sanders said. ``No matter what goes on, you've still got to play.''