Springs Uncertain for Playoff

By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 2, 2006

PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 1 -- Shortly after being beaten on a second-quarter touchdown pass by Philadelphia Eagles rookie Reggie Brown, the Washington Redskins' starting right cornerback, Shawn Springs, left the game and did not return. The larger concern wasn't that he left, but whether he can play in Saturday's wild-card playoff game at Tampa Bay or at all again this season.

Springs has been hampered by a sore right groin, an injury that has lingered for five weeks, and he has played through increasing pain. Sunday, a Redskins source said that the injury is far worse than the strain the team announced after its 31-20 victory over the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.

The source said Springs has possibly a tear of the groin or a hernia. He is scheduled to have an MRI exam on Monday. Springs has played through the injury by the traditional football combination of desire and strong painkillers.

Early in the game, it was clear that the Eagles were testing him. Springs said he aggravated the groin midway through the second quarter. On second and seven from the Redskins 8-yard line with the Eagles leading, 10-7, with 6 minutes 9 seconds remaining in the half, Brown faked to the outside before running a crossing route over the middle. According to Springs, the groin injury prevented him from moving well enough laterally to his right in order to keep up with Brown, who sprinted past him and caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from Mike McMahon. The Eagles led, 17-7, and Springs never re-entered the game.

"All I can tell you is that it hurts bad, real bad," Springs said. "Now is not the time to be injured, but I can't even lift my leg right now."

Should the injury be as serious as it first appeared, the Redskins' secondary faces a considerable challenge. Both Eagles quarterbacks, McMahon and Koy Detmer, threw at the depleted Redskins secondary, which by the end of the game featured backup cornerbacks Walt Harris and Christian Morton, who was signed so late in the week that he did not appear on the Redskins' depth chart.

In addition to Springs, starting left cornerback Carlos Rogers is out with a torn left biceps muscle. He missed his third straight game yesterday, even though the Redskins' medical staff said Rogers had progressed well. Since the injury occurred Dec. 11 at Arizona, Rogers did not practice with full pads until Friday, a span of 19 days.

And backup corner Ade Jimoh was diagnosed after the game with an irregular heartbeat. He did not play in the fourth quarter.

That the injuries have mounted emboldened the Eagles, who passed for 261 yards. Nor would a vulnerable secondary be lost on Tampa Bay, which beat the Redskins, 36-35, on Nov. 13. In that game, rookie quarterback Chris Simms threw for 279 yards and three touchdowns. Simms was explosive, completing five passes for more than 20 yards, including the game-winning 30-yard touchdown to Edell Shepherd.

"Other teams are going to challenge us, especially because they see that we're banged up back there," defensive end Phillip Daniels said. "We have to put it upon ourselves to get more pressure on the quarterback to make it a little less difficult for them."

But the biggest injury is to Springs, who despite playing injured for the past five weeks was not challenged by opposing offenses in the manner of yesterday. He did not earn a Pro Bowl berth this season, but he is the Redskins defensive back upon whom quarterbacks are least likely to focus.

Over the past few weeks, the Redskins' medical staff has marveled that Springs has even played with this severe an injury, yet teams were still reluctant to test his health. The Giants last week only threw at Springs four times during the game, twice as many times as the Dallas Cowboys a week previous.

But Sunday in the first drive alone, McMahon threw to Greg Lewis three times. McMahon failed to complete a pass to Lewis on the drive, and on the Eagles' first drive of the second quarter, McMahon tested Springs again, but Springs stopped running back Ryan Moats for a five-yard loss on a swing pass.

On the next drive, McMahon attacked Springs again, with better results. Reggie Brown caught an eight-yard pass, and on third and 21 from the Redskins 22, Springs was flagged for a crippling pass interference call that gave the Eagles first and goal at the 8. Brown beat Springs for the touchdown on the next play.

"We knew they were a throwing team, but I personally didn't anticipate them throwing that much," Harris said. "It kind of caught us off guard. I think if we get Carlos back, and we could get Shawn back, that would be great. If we don't, we've got a bunch of guys who are going to have to step up and make plays."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company