By Les Carpenter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 24, 2008
SEATTLE, Nov. 23 -- The play was not one intimately familiar to Shawn Springs from the practice fields across Lake Washington, when Matt Hasselbeck, his old teammate on the Seattle Seahawks, would turn to his left and fire passes his way on misty Northwest afternoons. Those days are half a decade gone. The Seahawks' offense has evolved, moved on, and Springs is in his fifth season as a defensive back for the Washington Redskins.
But in the final, frantic moments of Sunday afternoon's game, he recognized the play forming before him from watching film in the Redskins meeting room, understood that another former teammate, Koren Robinson, would be cutting to the sideline and knew there would be enough time to jump in front of Robinson and let Hasselbeck's pass slide into his arms for the interception that saved the day.
Then it did, and the Redskins leapt on their sideline throwing their arms in the air, surrounding him, pounding him on his back, thanking him for salvaging a game they could not afford to lose.
"You almost knew he was going to do something special today," said Shaun Alexander, Springs's new Redskins teammate who also played with him here in Seattle.
Later, Springs chuckled. Here he was in a stadium that used to be his own, a place he thought might be the place where he would finish his career, with a team -- the Seahawks -- that had drafted him 11 years before, and instead he had come back to beat them on a play that might have been one of the best he ever made in this place.
"Pretty freaky, huh?" he said.
It was not hard for the Redskins' coaches and players to see how much it meant to Springs that he play well in this game. His departure from Seattle in 2004 was not tidy. There had been too many injuries, complaints of a promise that the pulled groins and hamstrings would not allow him to properly fulfill.
People here never could grasp the night in 2002 when his good friend Terrell Owens leapt over him to catch a touchdown pass on "Monday Night Football" and then pulled a pen from his sock and signed the ball, presenting it to Springs's financial adviser seated in Springs's personal suite located just behind Qwest Field's north end zone.
The times the Redskins have returned here for the playoffs after the 2005 and 2007 regular seasons, Springs was at least somewhat limited by injuries. This year, a muscle strain in his calf had limited him to four games and no interceptions. He had missed Washington's previous four games. He desperately wanted to play on Sunday.
"You could tell all week this was a big deal for him," Redskins Coach Jim Zorn said.
He played well in Sunday's game, knocking away a couple of passes, keeping balls away from Seahawks wide receiver Bobby Engram, yet another of his former teammates here. But it was the final play on which Washington needed him the most. At the time, the Redskins were desperate. Running back Ladell Betts had fumbled with 1 minute 28 seconds left in the game, giving the Seahawks one last opportunity in a game they trailed 20-17. Then Hasselbeck looked left, expecting to see the Redskins in a defense in which they had been earlier in the day. This time they were not.
"It was my fault, Hasselbeck later said. "I misread the route by Koren."
Without timeouts, the Seahawks could do nothing once Springs intercepted the ball. Seconds later, the game was over.
Players spilled across the field as the final moments ticked away. Springs shook hands with Marcus Trufant, who replaced him here. He hugged Robinson. And then he went to find Seahawks Coach Mike Holmgren, whose strict rules he did not always appreciate.
"I said, 'Thank you for everything, I really appreciate it,' " he said. "I learned so much from Coach Holmgren and I have a lot of respect for him. I know this is probably his last year and I know how much pride he has and what type of coach he is. He's truly made a difference in my life, so I told him, 'Thank you.' "