- The Washington Times - Friday, November 3, 2006

It’s a scene their fans and coaches have been waiting all season to see: Shawn Springs and Carlos Rogers running on to the field together as the Washington Redskins’ starting cornerbacks.

Sunday, for the first time since the Redskins’ playoff loss in Seattle in January, Springs and Rogers will do just that as Washington plays host to the Dallas Cowboys.

“I’m anxious to see what those guys can do,” first-year cornerbacks coach Jerry Gray said. “You really can’t tell what your secondary looks like until they play together and this is going to be the first test.”

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Springs was sidelined for almost two months following an Aug. 15 abdominal surgery and a subsequent severely strained right groin. He returned as the nickel corner on Oct. 15 against Tennessee. Rogers, meanwhile, broke his right thumb in that game and missed the following week’s loss at Indianapolis.

Sunday’s game against the Cowboys will mark just the sixth time Springs, a 10-year veteran, and Rogers, taken ninth overall in last year’s draft, have started together since Rogers broke into the lineup for the third game of 2005. Springs was out two weeks later with a leg injury. A week later, a sprained ankle sidelined Rogers, who also missed the final three games of the regular season with a biceps injury. Springs missed the playoff opener at Tampa Bay with a bad groin.

Springs and Rogers will face a stiff test in their reunion. Cowboys standouts Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn, two former Pro Bowl receivers, have combined for 70 receptions and 912 yards through seven games.

“I always like playing the best,” Springs said. “Terry Glenn and Terrell Owens will let you know where you stand. Hopefully [having the starting corners] makes a difference. Carlos and I had a great spring playing with each other. I’m competitive. Carlos is competitive. I don’t want too many passes on my side. He doesn’t want too many on his side.”

Gray was pleased with Springs’ play against the Colts, though the corner said he was “still getting my legs underneath” himself. And, Springs is closer to game shape after going full-bore the past three practices.

Whether Springs is back in top form or not, Rogers is excited to have him back to share the load. Like journeyman Kenny Wright and backup Mike Rumph, Rogers ended up one spot higher in the rotation of where he should have been.

“Coach [Joe] Gibbs told me last week that the whole team will be energized to have ‘you two’ back in the starting lineup,” Rogers said.

But as is evident by the Redskins’ shockingly poor pass defense, which ranks third-last in the NFL, Rogers didn’t step up in Springs’ absence.

“Carlos is still like a rookie because he didn’t start last year [just seven of 18 games],” Gray said. “He’s starting on a team with high expectations so he has to play to the level of the other guys. If you don’t, that means you’re not having a good year. We’re not going to carry you along. That’s what he’s caught up in right now.”

The 25-year-old Rogers admits he’s far from a finished product.

“It’s been an up and down season for me,” said Rogers, who broke the same thumb as when he was a junior at Auburn. “I need to capitalize when I have my hands on the ball. I should have about four picks. It wasn’t much different when Shawn was out. Sometimes they want to go at Shawn to see if he’s still got it. I was running and conditioning when I was off. I’ll be ready. I’ve just got to take a little medicine, not think about the thumb, play through it and hopefully not do it again.”

The splint on his thumb will make interceptions very difficult, but Rogers hasn’t had that knack as it is. His dropped interception in the playoff loss at Seattle prevented the Redskins from taking a 10-0 lead.

“Carlos has matured in many, many ways,” assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams said. “He’s a lot more comfortable. The fact that he’s able to take ownership and say, ‘There are plays I know I should have made with my ability,’ that’s good to hear. We want him to think that way.

“He can make a difference. He’s one of the few guys that we have that can make a difference.”

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