By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Washington Redskins cornerback Shawn Springs approached this week of optional workouts at Redskins Park the way most veterans entering their 10th NFL season would, with a lament that the offseason grows shorter each year and a resigned surrender to the physical grind to come.
However, one element to the day, outside of recalling his recent trip to Puerto Rico, energized Springs: the chance to begin working with defensive backs coach Jerry Gray, who joined the Redskins in January after being fired as defensive coordinator in Buffalo. Gray, a four-time Pro Bowler who played eight NFL seasons and worked with Redskins assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams in Tennessee and Buffalo, replaced DeWayne Walker, who left to become the defensive coordinator at UCLA.
"This is going to be fun with Jerry," Springs said. "I can tell I'm going to learn a lot."
Andre Carter, an established defensive player from San Francisco who is adjusting to a new team, had a little different approach.
"For me, the combination of learning how they do things here and saying 'what's up' to the guys is what you get out of this," Carter said. "It's got to be different for everyone, but I'm starting to see it. This is a very simple defensive approach. They want you to attack, and be explosive. It's like this: straight ahead and attack."
Said Redskins defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin: "This is where you get to know the guys you're going to be in there with. The success we had last season starts right here, right now. I honestly believe, even though we came up short, that what we did started because so many guys had good springs and came into it with the right attitude."
Meanwhile, Springs finds himself more inwardly focused. He is entering his third season with the Redskins, and along with linebacker Marcus Washington, he is one of the more accomplished and recognizable members of the defense.
"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "There's a lot of energy around here, though, because of what we did and what we should be able to do this year."
Though he had a successful season despite nagging injuries near the end, Springs found that quarterbacks weren't throwing in his direction for long stretches of the season and he posted some of the poorest statistics of his career. He had 51 tackles and one interception, his lowest totals when playing 15 or more games. He also did not record a sack after getting six in his first season with the Redskins.
Still, neither Williams nor Coach Joe Gibbs felt Springs had an off year. If anything, both believed he should have been a stronger candidate for the Pro Bowl. Springs was rarely challenged and rarely part of blitzing packages. Offenses chose to attack other areas of the Redskins' defense -- most notably cornerback Walt Harris, rookie Carlos Rogers and the variations of the cover-2 defense that placed a linebacker on a wide receiver.
Unlike Santana Moss, who is beginning to bond with Brandon Lloyd and Antwaan Randle El, Springs finds his corner of the world pretty much the way he left it after the Redskins lost to Seattle in the second round of the playoffs.
Gibbs has said repeatedly that he would like to add another cornerback, but the Redskins have not yet upgraded or added depth to the position. Springs and Rogers are the incumbent starters, while their backups, Harris and Omar Stoutmire, were cut weeks ago. That leaves Ade Jimoh as the third cornerback. There were a few players who appeared to be on the Redskins' radar, including San Diego cornerback Jamar Fletcher. The Redskins contacted Fletcher weeks ago but never scheduled a visit, and talks appear to have disintegrated.
"How about Charles Woodson?" Springs joked about the free agent cornerback, formerly of the Raiders. "That would be huge."
The club still is roughly $4.4 million under the salary cap, but could also still look for a linebacker. Representatives for former Philadelphia linebacker Keith Adams and former Detroit linebacker Nate Wayne were contacted in recent weeks, but little movement appears to have taken place concerning either.