An arbitrator has ruled that Barry Sanders must repay the Detroit Lions of the National Football League dlrs 1.83 million of his signing bonus in July, a bit longer than his former team had hoped.
But arbitrator Sam Kagel's clarification last week still doesn't have the retired running back and the Lions on the same page about the exact deadline for Sanders to hand over any check.
Lions spokesman Bill Keenist said Saturday the club interprets Kagel's clarification as meaning the money is due July 19, if Sanders doesn't report that day to training camp. Sanders agent David Ware says his client has until July 29.
It's a disagreement about just 10 days, but neither side in what has become an acrimonious dispute is giving ground.
"Paying the bonus back has never been a problem," Ware said. "We offered to pay the bonus back last year in exchange for his release, and the Lions refused."
Sanders got an dlrs 11 million signing bonus when he signed a six-year contract with the Lions in 1997. He played just two years before startling the league by leaving football on the eve of last summer's training camp, just 1,458 yards shy of breaking Walter Payton's career record of 16,726.
Kagel ruled in February that if Sanders stayed retired, Sanders must pay back one-sixth of the signing bonus for each year he fails to play under the contract's terms.
Though Sanders later repaid the Lions dlrs 83,333 - the balance of his prorated 1999 signing bonus - Ware said the Lions in a March 3 letter demanded payment by March 13 of the dlrs 1.83 million that Kagel ruled the player owes the club this season, if he doesn't play.
To the Lions, the intent of Kagel's February ruling gave them the right to collect the money 10 days after the club first announced that training camp will open July 19.
When Ware countered that Kagel never intended that, both sides requested the Kagel clarification handed down last week.
"According to this ruling," Keenist said, "either Barry shows up for the first day of camp or pays the prorated portion of the signing bonus for the 2000 season."
To Ware, Kagel's intentions are "pretty clear": Sanders has until 10 days after the camp's start to either report or pay.
"There's no basis for an earlier demand for payment," Ware said. "If they want it earlier, they can get it as long as they release him."
But, Ware said, "they've told us they're not going to trade him or release him."
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