Shawn Springs ready for big reunion
From the front office to coaches to the fans, Washington cornerback Shawn Springs says he has no hard feelings as he returns to face the Seahawks in the playoffs.
Seattle Times staff reporter
ASHBURN, Va. — Shawn Springs often sounds this week like someone who practiced his interviews at home in the mirror. Springs loves Seattle and its fans and restaurants. Springs remembers a first-class organization and a cohesive locker room.
Springs, on Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren: "We had a really, really good relationship."
Springs, on Gary Wright, Seahawks vice president of administration: "Man, I love that dude."
Springs, on the Seahawks: "Some of my closest friends still work there."
Shawn Springs is saying all the right things this week as his current team returns to play his former team in a playoff game at the stadium he once called home.
Shawn Springs sounds mature now. He admits he wasn't always then, back when Seattle took the Ohio State standout with the third pick in the 1997 draft and promised a new era that never quite merged reality with expectation.
He still remembers his first day in Seattle. The headlines proclaiming him the savior of Paul Allen's new regime. The new uniforms, new personnel, new day.
"The whole city took me in and raised me a little bit," Springs said.
Maybe Springs needed some growing up. Maybe his time with the Seahawks grounded him. Maybe he needed Holmgren to "cuss me out a couple times."
Maybe all the perceptions — "Sometimes people said I was a cancer in the locker room or whatever" — and all the injuries — Springs missed games in four of his seven seasons with the Seahawks — brought out an unintended bonus. Growth.
"I was raised in the organization," Springs said. "They saw me go from a young man to who I am today. For the most part, [Holmgren] was like a father figure to me. Sometimes we had our differences. But the one thing we had in common is we both wanted to win. He knew my desire to win. He won't ever argue that."
Holmgren didn't lean toward negative in a conference call with reporters here this week. He called Springs "one of the most gifted athletes" he's ever seen at cornerback. Called him "special." Said he would have loved to have kept Springs in his defensive backfield.
There was but one problem. With what Holmgren called a "series of nagging injuries" the Seahawks didn't want to pay the price Springs commanded. Not with what Washington was offering.
Washington coach Joe Gibbs called Springs at exactly midnight on the day free agency kicked off following the 2003 season. Mom called shortly after, telling her boy to come back home (Springs grew up in Maryland).
"We had some years where we were supposed to be really, really good," Springs said, "and it didn't work out. But hey, it's working out for them now. It's working out for me, too."
"We think," Gibbs said, "he's one of the best around."
Springs didn't play last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because of groin trouble. His numbers are down, too. Last season, Springs intercepted five passes and notched six sacks — this season, he's nabbed only one pick.
But there's a presence there that Gibbs said means something. A reason that Springs started 15 games and the defense allowed only 192.6 passing yards per game, sixth best in the NFC.
Springs expects to play this weekend against his former team. He also expects mixed reviews, some catching up with old friends, "a lot" of No. 24 jerseys in the stands, some boos. He's already got a dinner reservation for Daniel's Broiler.
"It's not like I left on a bad note," Springs said. "And they liked me when I was there."
At other times during the interview, Springs remains as outspoken as ever. He says the Seahawks schedule "helped them out a lot." He says that fans in Seattle called him "Neo" because "I control the Matrix." He says he sent Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander, a close friend, a text message earlier this week.
It read: I look forward to seeing you on Saturday.
Sometimes Shawn Springs sounds like he's grown up, moved out, moved on. Other times he sounds just like the Shawn Springs they remember in Seattle.
"When you're not producing like we were, it can get tough on you," Springs said. "Sometimes, change is good. Obviously it worked out for me because my last two years in Washington ... I've just been ... I'll let y'all decide how it's been. I'm not even going to toot my own horn, but it's been good for me.
"I really miss those guys. And I look forward to playing them on Saturday."
Greg Bishop: 206-464-3191 or email@example.com
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