Shawn Springs played in just two postseason games in his first eight seasons, so it pained him that his long-ailing groin forced him to sit out Saturday’s wild-card victory at Tampa Bay.
Fortunately for Springs, his absence wasn’t costly, because the Washington Redskins defeated the Buccaneers 17-10. And fortunately for the Redskins, their No. 1 cornerback is ready to go for Saturday’s divisional-round game in Seattle, where he played his first seven seasons.
“I’m just like [the Seahawks],” Springs said. “I’m coming off a bye. I’ll be rested, fresh and ready. I’m going to practice tomorrow and get after it.
“We’ve been a MASH unit over the last three weeks. I was limping in the month of December. We have Carlos [Rogers] back [after missing Weeks 15-17 with an injured biceps]. Now we’ve got some depth.”
With declining veteran Walt Harris and rookie Rogers starting at corner, Washington escaped disaster in Tampa Bay when Bucs receiver Edell Shepherd couldn’t hold an apparent late touchdown pass that might have forced overtime. But the Redskins know they need Springs healthy against the NFL’s highest-scoring team.
“What you have in Shawn is somebody that’s battle-tested,” coach Joe Gibbs said. “We think he’s one of the best corners out there. He’s physical. He has made big plays. Corners know there’s no substitute for experience and guys that can handle the tough part of playoffs.
“Most of those corners, they’re not going to play corner if they worry about things. They’ve got a little bit of a gunslinger attitude. Certainly Shawn does. I think it will add a lot having him back.”
Safety Ryan Clark joked that Springs “has a burr on because he likes to be the reason we win” and that his teammate wants to play well in Seattle to help ensure his induction into the Seahawks Hall of Fame.
While Springs said this game is a big deal because of its magnitude rather than the opponent or locale, he is excited to return to Seattle, a place where he has many fond memories.
“I had some good times, some good wins out there,” said Springs, who made the Pro Bowl in 1998 and played on playoff teams in 1999 and 2003. “We played San Diego when they had Ryan Leaf [in 1998]. We had seven picks that day. I had two.”
Having already faced his ex-teammates in a 20-17 victory Oct. 2 at FedEx Field, Springs is especially looking forward to a reunion with Seattle fans.
“I get to see my boy Lowell, the biggest fan in the world,” Springs said. “He’s a 400-pound Seahawks fan looking like a human billboard. I’m looking forward to seeing how the crowd will react to my coming back. Like with LaVar [Arrington] here, even when things got tough for me in Seattle, the fans gave me so much love.”
Yet Springs doesn’t regret leaving for a six-year, $31.3 million contract with the Redskins before last season.
“I’m glad the first time I played Seattle was a regular-season game here instead of being out there in the playoffs, but once I get between the lines, it’ll be like any other game,” Springs said. “I didn’t leave Seattle because I was unhappy. It was strictly business. And it’s not like the move here didn’t work out for me. I’ve been on the top of my game the last two years.”
Springs made a huge impact in his Washington debut in 2004, becoming the first NFL defensive back to lead a team in interceptions and sacks. But this year, with Fred Smoot gone and no proven commodity on the opposite corner, Springs has just one interception. He also doesn’t have a sack because he has been asked to blitz sparingly by assistant head coach Gregg Williams.