- The Washington Times - Friday, November 19, 2004

This one has been marked on the calendar since March, when the Washington Redskins signed cornerback Shawn Springs to a mega-contract to replace Champ Bailey and the Philadelphia Eagles obtained wide receiver Terrell Owens in a trade.

It was Springs, after all, who was burned two years ago on the “Sharpie” play. When Owens pulled the now-infamous marker out of his sock, autographed the football and handed it to his financial adviser, Springs took a seat on the wrong side of history.

Now both play in the NFC East, and Redskins fans are dying to see how Springs holds up Sunday against his old foe. The media are poised to declare, once and for all, whether Washington made the right move in dumping Bailey. And Springs … well, Springs alone is pretty matter of fact, seeing Owens as just another test.

“Every week, dude, I go against some receivers that are unreal,” Springs said. “[Cincinnati’s] Chad Johnson was unreal. Next week [Pittsburgh’s] Plaxico [Burress] and [Hines] Ward are going to be unreal. Then [Minnesota’s] Randy Moss is going to come in here unreal.

“See, people like to talk about T.O. because you think he’s going to do some crazy [stuff]. I think it’s great. He has it figured out — if you do something crazy, [the media’s] going to talk about it and anticipate the matchup. But every week for a corner, I’ve got to be [ready].”

Springs certainly has been ready so far. Nine games into his Redskins tenure, the Silver Spring native is living up to his six-year, $31.3million contract.

Many observers doubted this scenario would play out. In seven seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, Springs battled injuries and made just one Pro Bowl, and his reaction to getting beat — particularly on the Oct.14, 2002, Sharpie play — sparked questions about whether he cares enough.

But in Washington, Springs has filled a versatile role and provided an important veteran presence in an otherwise young secondary. Assistant head coach for defense Gregg Williams uses Springs in man and zone coverage, in run support, in the slot and sometimes in linebacker and safety positions. And teammates rave about Springs’ football intelligence.

“People wouldn’t believe it, but Shawn Springs, his football IQ is very high,” cornerback Fred Smoot said. “Right now, that’s one part of my game that I’ve taken up — just learning Football 101.”

Recently, however, some cracks have appeared in Springs’ armor. Against Green Bay on Oct.31, Springs gave up a 9-yard touchdown to wide receiver Javon Walker, committed a long pass-interference penalty and wasn’t in position to defend a 41-yard pass to Donald Driver. Although Springs also had two big interceptions, it wasn’t a spotless day.

Then last weekend Cincinnati’s Johnson made several nice intermediate-length catches against Springs. On the whole, Bengals wideouts ravaged Washington in the first half, racking up 15 receptions and helping build a 17-0 lead.

But Springs notes that cornerbacks are bound to be beaten here or there. The idea is to limit the damage and keep opponents out of the end zone — which Washington, despite a pair of rough first halves, generally did in both games.

“I laugh because somebody put in the paper, ‘Smoot and Springs got burned. Springs got burned for a 12-yard curl, and Smoot got burned for a 9-yard hitch,’” Springs said. “I’m like, ‘Is that bad? When people are putting up five touchdowns each week in the league?

“People are going to move the ball. [Bengals coach] Marvin [Lewis] is smart. Marvin knows what the weakness of a coverage is and how to make plays. They’re good. They get paid for stuff like that.”

Owens, too, gets paid a considerable amount, and has drawn plenty of criticism for his self-promotion. But Springs doesn’t begrudge the former San Francisco 49er, who is among several players, along with Springs and Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, who train together in Scottsdale, Ariz., in the winter and square off playground-style.

“See, people don’t understand — if you don’t want him to pull out a Sharpie, or if you don’t want him to dance on the [star at Texas Stadium], just stop him,” Springs said. “Bottom line: There ain’t no in-between. You can’t get mad that he’s doing it. Your job is to go out there and lock his [butt] down.”

Will Owens have another Sharpie this weekend? Will he have pom-poms or a new dance? Redskins linebacker Antonio Pierce, for one, doesn’t care. A half season with Springs is enough for Pierce to forecast a winner in the upcoming battle.

“Shawn Springs is a competitor, a veteran,” Pierce said. “He knows how to play the game, and he’s played against T.O. all those years. So he knows how to match up with T.O. well, and we’re not going to leave him on the island either. You can’t. There’s probably nobody in this league who can guard T.O. one-on-one and shut him down.”

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide