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Deoin Undergoes Toe Surgery

Even surgery has managed to further cloud the mystery of Deion Sanders' left big toe.

Sanders underwent surgery to repair the troublesome toe in New York City on Wednesday, but it remained unclear when the Pro Bowl cornerback and punt returner will be ready to take the field again.

Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said because the case of Deion's damaged digit is "very unique," it would inappropriate to establish a projected return date.

"The surgery was performed to explore and repair what Dr. (William) Hamilton described as a `rare and unusual variation of turf toe,"' Jones said in a release from Cowboys headquarters.

"The doctor has informed us that it is very difficult to compare Deion's condition to that of any other athlete."

Hamilton is the specialist who performed the operation.

Sanders injured the toe in the first period of the Cowboy's 35-28 victory over the Arizona Cardinals last Nov. 15 in Tempe. He played briefly in the next game against Seattle, and then was out until the Cowboys' playoff loss to Arizona on Jan. 2. Dallas went 2-3 during the five full games Sanders missed.

Team doctors said at the time that there was nothing that could be done to help the toe except to wait. Wait they did, and Sanders said he was ready to play just in time for the Pro Bowl on Feb. 7.

The big question, of course, is whether Sanders and his toe will be ready for either the start of training camp of July 26 or the season opener on Sept. 12.

"We'll basically prepare the team as if he's not going to be there," Jones said, as in those seasons when Sanders was wrapping up his baseball season in Cincinnati.

Jones said the team was not caught off guard by the operation.

"The surgery was prescribed at this time -- and not an earlier date -- because an extensive evaluation period of healing and therapy had to first take place," Jones said.

When it was clear that Sanders was not going to be able to perform at his usual level, Sanders and the team opted for surgery, Jones said.

The late decision could explain why the issue of depth at cornerback wasn't dealt with in the draft. Kevin Smith, who was expected to be phased out, and Kevin Mathis are the remaining cornerbacks while Sanders is out.

"We have great confidence in the abilities of Kevin Smith and Kevin Mathis," team spokesman Rich Dalrymple said.

How the injury will affect Sanders' ongoing contract negotiations is unclear, and Jones refused to discuss the issue. Sanders reportedly is seeking a five-year deal worth a $50 million, including a 10 million bonus.

Sanders' agent, Eugene Parker, did not return a call from The Associated Press.

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