- The Washington Times - Friday, October 20, 2006

Though they’re officially game-time decisions, look for cornerback Shawn Springs and defensive tackle Joe Salave’a to return to the starting lineup when the 2-4 Washington Redskins visit the 5-0 Indianapolis Colts tomorrow.

However, the outlook isn’t as bright for defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, who missed the team portion of practice for a third straight afternoon yesterday.

“You always want to play,” said Griffin, who sat out last week’s loss to Tennessee. “Being on the sideline [is no fun], but you’ve got to be smart and think about the team first.”

Springs made his 2006 debut in a part-time role last week after being out for nearly two months with pelvic injuries. Salave’a missed three of the past four games with a strained muscle in one or the other calf. If Griffin can’t play, this would make 10 of 16 games since last October in which he and/or Salave’a were unable to start.

Fullback Mike Sellers returned to practice after sitting out Thursday with an ailing elbow. Left guard Derrick Dockery practiced despite an injured hip and, like Sellers, will play tomorrow. So will linebackers Marcus Washington (hip) and Lemar Marshall (ankle) and receiver David Patten (thigh).

Snake in the grass

Griffin retrieved a small snake that had wandered onto the practice field and after walking up to the back of Redskin Park with it, opted to return it to the woods to the side of the building.

“It was a harmless snake, a baby really,” said Griffin, who is familiar with snakes from having grown up in rural Brundidge, Ala.

Bethea a rookie surprise

Antoine Bethea, a rookie from Howard University, is expected to start at one of the safety spots for the Colts tomorrow. A sixth-round draft choice, Bethea has started all five games at safety in place of injured Mike Doss and Bob Sanders and is third on the team with 36 tackles.

“Antoine has played great for us, really from the first day of minicamp,” Colts coach Tony Dungy said. “He was playing for a small school, but he was the best player on the field. We brought him in and talked to him and he seemed very mature and a guy who was savvy about the game and that’s what attracted us to him. If we had known he would be this good, we probably would have drafted him a little higher.”

Bethea was only the fourth player to be a three-time Black College All-American.

“I always thought he was a tough nut,” said Tracy Harrod, Bethea’s coach at Denbigh High School in Newport News, Va. “He was a good tackler, had deceptive speed and his football IQ was off the charts. But he’s definitely taken it to another level. I wouldn’t have envisioned him starting in the NFL as a rookie.”

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Cato June was the top high school player in the District as an Anacostia senior defensive back in 1997. June started 26 games at safety at Michigan before being taken by Indianapolis in the sixth round of the 2003 draft. After spending his rookie year on special teams, June became a starter in 2004 and led the Colts with 128 tackles. Last year June started the Pro Bowl, the first Colts linebacker so honored in 18 years. June has 50 tackles this year, putting him on pace for 160.

Four years before June was earning acclaim at Anacostia, Terrence Wilkins was Northern Virginia’s top player as a running back at Bishop O’Connell High. Wilkins moved to receiver at Virginia and finished fifth in school history with 1,495 receiving yards. A rookie free agent for the Colts in 1999, Wilkins started 11 games and became just the fourth player in NFL history to score in four ways in a season (catch, kick return, punt return and fumble recovery). Wilkins wasn’t quite as big a factor the next two seasons before being traded to St. Louis in 2002.

A bust with the Rams, Wikins was cut by St. Louis, Carolina and Miami in the space of 14 months. He caught on with Calgary of the CFL last season before re-signing with Indianapolis in May. Wilkins returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown in Week 3 to help beat Jacksonville 21-14.

Staff writer Ryan O’Halloran contributed to this article.

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