By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 3, 2006
While the Redskins await word on whether top cornerback Shawn Springs will be available for Saturday's playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, rookie cornerback Carlos Rogers said yesterday he will return for Washington's first postseason contest since the 1999-2000 season.
Springs, 30, who has played at a Pro Bowl level the past two seasons and is by far the most accomplished of the Redskins' defensive backs, had an MRI exam on his injured groin yesterday and the results will be evaluated today by team doctors and surgeons, said Bubba Tyer, the team's director of sports medicine. Springs could be out indefinitely, team sources said.
"Our medical team and certainly the player, Shawn, will have a huge input in this," Coach Joe Gibbs said. "He's been around for a long time and he understands, and it's just a matter of making a good decision. These are important games, but at the same time, we don't want somebody out there if we feel there's going to be a chance for them to hurt themselves."
Springs finally succumbed to the painful and lingering injury in the second quarter of Sunday's 31-20 victory in Philadelphia. His absence in Tampa could be quite significant, as the Buccaneers completed several long passes when the teams met Nov. 13, with the Redskins losing repeated second-half leads and falling, 36-35, on a late two-point conversion. Springs did not rule himself out of this game, but was pessimistic.
"It feels bad, but you know, this time of year, what can you do?" Springs said. "I felt pain in my groin and in my back and I knew it and I tried to go and I just couldn't." The fact the Redskins won five straight games to reach the postseason is of some comfort, however. "If I can't play, I'm still going to be excited, because we're in the playoffs. I'm excited because the team is going to go back to Tampa."
Washington's secondary has rarely been healthy this season. Rogers, the ninth overall pick in last year's draft, has sat out the past three games because of a torn biceps, but he returned to practice last Friday and said he definitely will play against the Buccaneers. Rogers has regained full range of motion in his arm, Tyer said. If Springs is out, Rogers would start in his place.
"I'll be ready, no doubt," Rogers said. "If it hurts, it hurts. But I'll be out there."
Springs has been pushing himself to play despite his injury for the last three weeks, often sitting out practice for treatment. Rogers's development has slowed because of several injuries -- he has started just five NFL games -- while veteran Walt Harris, who has been starting in place of Rogers, also has played through various injuries and is less than two years removed from career-threatening knee surgery.
Cornerback Ade Jimoh, a special teams ace, had to leave Sunday's game because of an irregular heartbeat, and was feeling ill and fatigued on the sideline, but he was given the all-clear to return to practice, and said he will play Saturday. "There's a lot of medical terms I don't understand," Jimoh said of his condition, "but basically it amounts to, 'You'll be fine, you'll be back out there playing.' "
Tyer said Jimoh had previously suffered one such episode, when his heartbeat raced between 132 and 140 beats per minute, and is taking medication for the problem. He will be monitored closely, and the team will look for measures to address the issue in the offseason, Tyer said.
The run of injuries forced the Redskins to utilize the depth of their roster in Philadelphia. Second-year corner Christian Morton was rushed into duty after being signed to the active roster from the practice squad in the middle of last week. Morton, a seventh-round pick by New England in 2004, was on Washington's practice squad for a week in September, then was signed to Atlanta's active roster, and played four games for the Falcons before being released.
While some players were surprised to see Morton on the field with the Redskins' playoff hopes in the balance, he ended up making three tackles and faring well.
The Buccaneers, enjoying a huge season from speedy wide receiver Joey Galloway, made little pretense about trying to run on Washington's rugged run defense in the earlier meeting, and utilized extra tight ends as blockers to protect against the Redskins' blitz, then took their chances on deep throws downfield. Inexperienced quarterback Chris Simms threw for three touchdowns, 279 yards and a 119.8 rating, and hit several key third-down throws in the clutch. Simms found Edell Shepherd for a 30-yard touchdown to put Tampa Bay within a point in the final seconds, and Simms hit Shepherd for 46 yards on a third and seven in the third quarter to set up another vital score.
The Redskins have developed a more effective pass rush since that game, which would be of a great service to the defensive backs, and expect Tampa Bay to attack in a similar fashion on Saturday. "I'm sure they're going to try to come at us with those same kind of things," defensive end Renaldo Wynn said.
Rogers was burned on the 46-yard bomb, and Shepherd beat Harris on the final touchdown in the earlier game, which was played during a period in the season when the defense was susceptible to long plays. Since then, the Redskins have improved, but their troubles against the Buccaneers have not been forgotten.
"I think that's good for us," Harris said. "Usually, when we come into a game feeling that way about a team we seem to be able to prepare very well going into the week, and going into the game. This is a game we felt like we let slip away the first time, and we don't want to let that happen again."