Detroit Lions coach Marty Mornhinweg said Friday that the team has informed an agent for Barry Sanders that "if he wants to play football somewhere else, we will accommodate him."
This is the first time the Lions have publicly or privately taken this position on Sanders since he retired.
Mornhinweg was responding to a report that said Sanders' agents were trying to use Michael Jordan's return to the NBA as a catalyst for him to return to the NFL, but that the Lions were adamant about him resuming his career in Detroit, if he so desired.
Mornhinweg said he has had recent dialogue with Peter Schaffer, one of Sanders' agents, as the NFL trade deadline approaches Tuesday. The Lions own the rights to Sanders, who retired following the 1998 season, and would be entitled to compensation if Sanders wanted to play for another team.
"We are being told ... there might be an inkling that Barry wants to play again, but somewhere else," said Mornhinweg. "But I've had occasions to speak with Barry, and I just don't think he's interested in playing football again -- it's that simple. We have had conversations with other teams, but this isn't going anywhere.
"Frankly, we're going to have to hear Barry say it personally -- that he wants to play again. It can't come from his agents."