NFL Insider: Former SMU star Sanders hopes to be celebrating all season

Posted Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Receiver Emmanuel Sanders’ first touchdown of the season took a while, so he made sure it was memorable with a celebratory flip into the end zone.

“It felt good, because it was the moment in which my team needed it,” Sanders said in a phone interview. “It was a crucial drive coming out of the half. We were up by six points and had an opportunity to put the punctuation on the game early. And I put the extra punctuation mark on it with a flip that’s been highly talked about for some reason.”

It was the second time a Steelers player celebrated with a front flip. Le’Veon Bell did the same a week earlier. Who can blame them? The Steelers are, after all, averaging only 17.6 points per game.

But Steelers coach Mike Tomlin ordered a stop to the celebratory flips, citing the threat of injury.

“I won’t be doing any more somersaults into the end zone,” Sanders said. “But he’s absolutely right. It’s a high-risk thing. At the end of the day, I was just having fun while doing it. I didn’t mean any disrespect, and I wasn’t trying to taunt anybody.”

The former SMU star is in his fourth, and what could be his final, season in Pittsburgh. The Steelers kept him this year by matching the one-year, $2.5 million deal he signed with New England as a restricted free agent in the off-season.

Sanders’ name has been mentioned in trade rumors, with the Oct. 29 deadline fast approaching. He is scheduled to become a free agent in the off-season, and he saw receiver Mike Wallace leave for Miami in free agency last off-season.

“I’d be lying to you if I told you those things don’t cross my mind,” Sanders said. “But how often they cross my mind? Rarely. I try not to concern myself with too much of what’s to come. I just try to focus on the now, and the now is we’re trying to beat the Baltimore Ravens.

“God has a game plan for me, where I’m playing. You’ve got to take it day by day. I could get hurt at practice today and end my career. That’s how I view everything. So God has a plan for me, and hopefully I’m a Pittsburgh Steeler next year. If not, I know the plan he created for me is the best for me.”

Sanders has started only 11 games in his career, including three this season, and his career-best season was last year, when he had 626 receiving yards. He has never scored more than two touchdowns in a season.

Sanders has gone through a lot in his four seasons in the NFL and believes his time is coming.

“If you would have asked me [how his pro career has gone] two years ago, after the Super Bowl, after breaking my foot, battling all those injuries and the passing of my mom, I would have told you that right now it’s not going the direction that I want it to go,” Sanders said.

“But I’m blessed. I am a starter in the National Football League now. I’m making plays. It just sucks that my team is 1-4, but we’ve got an opportunity to try and make the playoffs. At this stage, I am content, but it’s not what I want it to be, of course. I want to have a Pro Bowl-type year, and be the best receiver in the league, so I still have a long way to go.”

Flash Goodwin strikes

Receiver Marquise Goodwin can’t get away from London, no matter what he does on the football field. The cornerback lined up across from him, the one readying to stop him by any means necessary, inevitably will ask, “How were the Olympics?”

“I’ve always been a football player and ran track [on the side],” Goodwin said in a phone interview. “It is what it is. I don’t care who thinks I’m a track guy anymore. I’m not. That’s out the window. I play in the NFL. So people trying to consider me a track guy, then so be it. Good for them. I really [couldn’t] care less. It doesn’t even bother me anymore.”

Eight months after finishing 10th in the long jump at the Olympics, Goodwin traded in his Team USA jersey for the red, white and blue of the Buffalo Bills. The Bills made “Flash Goodwin” a third-round choice in last April’s draft after he ran a 4.27 in the 40-yard dash.

The former University of Texas standout previewed his game-breaking ability in the preseason with a 107-yard kickoff return. But Goodwin broke his hand after only nine plays in the season opener against the Patriots.

“It’s just one of those things that you have to go through it and get better from it,” said Goodwin, a Rowlett product. “The injury rate in the NFL is 100 percent, so at some point, you’ll get injured. It just so happened that it was that early for me. Just learn from it and get better from it. That’s all you can do.”

Goodwin returned last week to play 44 of 69 offensive snaps against the Cincinnati Bengals. He caught two passes for 51 yards, including his first touchdown — a 40-yarder when he blew by cornerback Terence Newman in man coverage.

“It was cool,” said Goodwin, who also had four kickoff returns for a 23.5-yards average. “It was a good feeling, a great feeling. Just really a blessing to see where I came from.”

Charean Williams, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @NFLCharean

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