- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Because of Pierson Prioleau’s balky hamstring, safety Matt Bowen appears set to return to the Washington Redskins’ starting defense for the first time since a season-ending injury last October.

It also means the language in the Redskins’ huddle will become a little more fiery and salty.

“He’s going to be the same Matt we’re used to seeing,” safety Ryan Clark said. “Angry all the time, trying to hit people as hard as he possibly can, always cussing on the field.”

Said linebacker Marcus Washington: “Matt can get pretty intense out there. But that foul mouth gets him hyped up and it pumps the rest of us up, too.”

Bowen, who replaced Prioleau early in the win over Dallas on Sept. 19, has five tackles this season.

“I felt normal out there,” he said. “It didn’t feel like it was something I had never done before.”

The road back to becoming a regular contributor on the Redskins’ defense has been a long one for Bowen, 25, in his third season with Washington.

Bowen starred in last year’s opening win over Tampa Bay, making 12 tackles and two sacks. He had 25 tackles in the first four games and appeared to be a fine fit for the Redskins’ new scheme. But while covering a punt Oct. 10 against Baltimore, Bowen tore an anterior cruciate ligament.

The rehabilitation was taxing but Bowen was off his crutches by the time he got married Feb. 26 in Lake Geneva, Wis.

“It was a long winter, but I had a lot of fun things happen, too,” he said. “But I didn’t go water skiing or anything like that on my honeymoon. There’ll be time for that later.”

Bowen didn’t experience a lot of fun things during training camp. The thrill of returning to the field was tempered by two injuries — a sprained ligament in his surgically repaired knee that kept him out of the Cincinnati game and a chest injury that sidelined him against Baltimore. The lost time pushed him behind newcomer Prioleau on the depth chart and he played sparingly on defense in the regular-season opener against Chicago.

“Some things you can’t control,” Bowen said. “It’s football and sometimes you get hurt. You don’t want to get hurt but if you sit there and baby yourself and whine, that won’t do any good. You have to bounce back because you get knocked down in this league a lot and you have no choice but to get up.”

Bowen said the experience of rehabilitating the knee meant the minor bumps didn’t cause much frustration.

“Once you have a season-ending injury like that, there aren’t many injuries that can be worse,” he said. “You say to yourself, ‘I’ve conquered one of the hardest things you can come back from. This won’t set me back.’ ”

Bowen entered the Dallas game in the first series when Prioleau injured his hamstring.

“He executes the defense and goes out and plays a tough, physical game,” safeties coach Steve Jackson said. “He’s still working his way back in, but he looks good physically. Maybe he was frustrated, but he fought his way through it. Having been out a year and then getting back into camp is not easy for anybody. But he’s the type of guy who worked hard and brings his lunch pail to work everyday.”

Bowen said his role within the defense remains pretty much the same and he downplayed the lack of playing time he has had alongside Sean Taylor — they have started only three games together. Taylor didn’t start until Week 3 last year and Bowen was hurt two games later.

“In this defense, it doesn’t matter who’s next to you because you’ll fit in if you play hard and communicate,” Bowen said. “We play safety here like it’s supposed to be played, by running hard to the football. That’s the best way I can describe it.”

The ever-present knee brace is a daily reminder to Bowen about his injury, but he said because the knee has been “fixed,” he can’t afford to wonder if his body will hold up during a game.

“I don’t know if [the injury] teaches you a lesson but it does say, ‘Hey, man, you’re no different than anybody else,’ ” he said. “Every football player thinks they’re invincible and you almost have to think that way because it’s a violent and physical game and if you think it’s going to be easy and you’re not going to get bumps and bruises, you’re in the wrong business.”

Notes — The New York Jets’ signing of quarterback Vinny Testaverde yesterday likely means the team won’t pursue Redskins backup Patrick Ramsey. … The Redskins’ defense is ranked third in the NFL (258.5 yards per game) and Seattle’s offense is ranked second (399.0 ypg).

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