- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Shawn Springs sat frustrated on a bench overlooking the Redskin Park fields.

Frustrated by a poor practice, by his standards. Frustrated that there was another practice in less than six hours, with the Washington Redskins’ season opener still more than a month away.

And frustrated that his father’s already poor health continues to deteriorate.

Ron Springs, a former running back for the Dallas Cowboys, is on dialysis and searching for a kidney donor. Doctors amputated his right foot early last year.

“Work today because tomorrow’s not promised to you,” said Shawn Springs, 31. “Part of that comes from what my father is going through. Part of it comes from this is my 10th year. I don’t feel like an older player, but I’m to the point of my career where I just appreciate football so much.

“I respect the game so much that it makes it hard for me to struggle in practice. I might have always been the No. 1 corner, but I always approach it like an undrafted free agent, like I’m not going to make the team.”

Springs isn’t going anywhere, obviously. But he is looking for a bit of renewal.

Springs led the Redskins in interceptions (five) and sacks (six) in 2004, becoming the first defensive back in league history to do so.

Last season, however, was a letdown. Springs had one interception and no sacks. He didn’t play in the slot as much as he did the previous season because of injuries to fellow corners Carlos Rogers and Walt Harris.

Still, a drop to one big play from 11 is a plunge in production by any definition.

“You can’t get frustrated because you don’t make every play,” said new cornerbacks coach Jerry Gray, who, like Springs, is a former Pro Bowl corner. “No DB in the league makes every play. When you try to make every play, you start missing the easy plays. Shawn blitzed a lot that first year and he made a lot of plays. Then when you don’t make plays, people wonder what’s wrong.

“Offenses watched the film and said, ‘When No. 24 is close to the line of scrimmage, move the protection over that way.’ Those numbers will go back up this year.”

If they do, Gray will deserve some of the credit.

“Jerry was a great corner in this league for a long time,” Springs said. “He understands. He knows our system so well because he played and coached for [assistant head coach/defense Gregg Williams] for so long. He’s a positive guy. He’s a great motivator.”

Gray said there’s no thought of moving Springs to safety as happens to many 30-something corners.

“Shawn is the same as he has always been,” Gray said. “He can run. He still has the quickness, everything he needs to play corner. Plus, most teams move corners to safety because they have a need there. We don’t. We have No. 1 draft picks in both spots [Sean Taylor and Adam Archuleta].”

If Rogers and new nickel back Kenny Wright can lock down on outside receivers and new end Andre Carter occupies more blockers, offenses should again be left guessing where Springs might be.

“I like rushing the passer and being able to do a lot of different things, but that makes early in camp tough for me because there are so many different techniques you have to play in our defense,” Springs said. “I might play in three different defenses in three plays. Once the season starts, I feel a lot more comfortable.”

Springs’ groin was so uncomfortable that he sat out the 2005 playoff opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He returned the next week at Seattle, where he had played his first seven seasons, but left still in search of his first postseason victory.

“It was like a homecoming in Seattle, but it was tough to walk off that field after losing,” Springs said. “I felt good for some of [the Seahawks], but I really want to play in a Super Bowl. You don’t want to be one of those guys who plays 13, 14 years and never gets there.

“It’s my 10th year so I’m going to try make it a perfect 10.”

Which to Springs means his first appearance in the Super Bowl, his first selection to the Pro Bowl since 1998 and a new kidney for his father.

Make it a trifecta.

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