The Detroit Lions welcomed back a familiar face to the locker room today as star running back Barry Sanders reported to practice after a 10-year hiatus.
“I feel like the time is right,” said Sanders. “It’s been 10 years. Maybe I left too early before. But I feel rested and rejuvenated. A whole decade’s worth or rest and rejuvenation. I am ready to play again.”
But while the Lions waited for years for Sanders to return and rescue the moribund franchise, some in the organization worry the all-time great, now 41, may have lost a step since last playing in 1998.
“He left at the top of his game,” said Lions head coach Jim Schwartz. “There was a whole lot left in the tank. But maybe the gas has gone bad. Or maybe the bottom of the tank has rusted out. Or perhaps other parts of the car have gone bad. Like perhaps the tires. Or the brakes. Or the engine. Okay, I’ll stop with the analogy. What I’m saying is that Barry Sanders is very, very old.”
Despite Schwartz's concerns about Sanders, general manager Martin Mayhew says Sanders is welcome back with open arms.
“Have you seen our team? I can’t name more than five guys on our roster – and I helped sign or draft almost all of them,” he said. “Hell yes Barry Sanders is back on our team. In fact, he will start this week. We don’t really have any other options. Kevin somebody is playing now. He went to some crap college I never heard of. Barry is definitely our guy. I think he can be as good as before. If he's feeling fresh he might get some time at safety, too.”
Sanders says he just wants to get back out on the field and play football again.
“I’m going to strap on my L.A. Gears, get some C+C Music Factory pumping in my Sony CD Walkman and go to work,” he said. “I just hope we play the Oilers this year. I always did well against them.”