Shawn Springs went through his normal routine last week at Tampa Bay. He traveled with the Redskins, watched film on the Buccaneers and tried to help motivate his teammates. When it came game time, Springs could do no more than watch. He sat out, due to a nagging groin injury, as the Redskins edged Tampa Bay 17-10 in their first postseason outing since 1999.
For Springs, it was something of a bye week, to stretch the imagination. He vows to be back at cornerback Saturday afternoon in Seattle for the second round of playoff action between the Redskins and the Seahawks.
This, certainly, is an opponent Springs knows all too well. The nine-year NFL veteran played his first seven years in the NFL in the Pacific Northwest. Two years ago, he was part of a Seattle team that was ousted from the playoffs in a crushing 33-27 overtime setback at Green Bay.
Springs says Seattle has probably learned a great deal from its playoff experiences in 2003 and 2004.
Former teammate Shaun Alexander tore up the NFL this season, earning MVP honors after having piled up 1,880 rushing yards and 27 rushing TDs. But Springs stressed that Alexander is just one of the many weapons Mike Holmgren's West Coast offense can throw at you.
Adds Springs: "Shaun's matured in the league and he's still getting better. I think Shaun has gotten better just like Matt [Hasselbeck] has gotten better over the last three years.
"With the offensive line that they have and Matt being able to throw it around to Darrell Jackson, Bobby Engram and those guys, now they have a lot of weapons. You can't just focus on Shaun."
Hasselbeck has had a season in which he's completed 65 percent of his passes (294-of-449) with 24 touchdowns, nine interceptions and an outstanding QB rating of 98.2. Springs says it's because Hasselbeck has come to understand the West Coast style of play more thoroughly.
"Matt understands the system better, so he makes better decisions," Springs continues. "He's being smart with the ball. He's throwing it away when he has to, and he knows when to tuck it in and run with the ball. That's the biggest thing. He has the system down so well right now. He knows all his reads."
Most teams stayed away from Springs' side of the field this season. Seattle was an exception. In the Oct. 2 matchup at FedExField, Hasselbeck found Jackson for the six-yard TD connection that tied the game at 17-17 with 1:23 left. Kicker Nick Novak won it for the Redskins with a 39-yarder in overtime.
Asked if he expected to be targeted by Hasselbeck and the Seahawks' offense, Springs said: "They threw at my side the first game, so of course they'll throw at me. Matt's confident. I hope they do throw at me because that means we'll have a competitive, fun game. That's what it's about.
"I'm quite sure Coach Holmgren will, since he's big on matchups. If he thinks he can get something on me, then he'll throw on me. If not, he'll go the other way. It'll be all business. I'm rested. I'm just like them, I'm coming off a bye. I'm going to be rested and fresh."
Redskins assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams says Springs fits exceptionally well into how his team plays defense at the cornerback position.
"Shawn's a big, physical corner," Williams points out. "With some of the physical receivers that we have in this division, we identified him to come into this system and organization. We wanted that matchup because of his size, speed, tackling ability, toughness and intelligence. He's a corner who doesn't just get cookie-cuttered into the corner position. He can play in the nickel and slot and be moved back to the safety position. We like those guys who can play more than one position. He fits into that very well."
In Springs, Walt Harris and rookie Carlos Rogers, the Redskins have a nice mix of youth and experience at the position. Rogers had a strong game versus Seattle on Week 4, producing seven tackles to tie linebacker Lemar Marshall for the team high.
Says Williams: "It doesn't make any difference what corner, defensive end or linebacker plays. We're going to play whoever gives us the best chance in the ballgame. The experience factor really helps because they've been in big games and have played against some of the top receivers in the league. It's exciting to get them all back on the same day."
What Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs likes about Springs is that he's battle tested. Says Gibbs: "At corner, there's no substitute for experience and guys who can handle the tough part of playoffs.
"Most corners are not going to play corner if they don't have a little bit of a gunslinger attitude. Certainly Shawn's that way. He's been around and made big plays. It'll add a lot to have him back."