Late in a game in December of the 1998 season between Indianapolis and Seattle, Phillip Daniels and Shawn Springs came up with a decisive play. Daniels forced a fumble that Springs scooped up and returned 14 yards for the touchdown that produced a 27-23 Seahawks win.
Six years later, those two players--Daniels and Springs--find themselves reunited as teammates. Both have a chance to become key contributors in the Redskins' defense of 2004. Springs, a first-round draft pick by Seattle in 1997 out of Ohio State, basically has been penciled in as the replacement for Champ Bailey at one of the cornerback spots opposite Fred Smoot. Daniels, now in his ninth NFL season, hopes to regain the form that made him an outstanding pass rusher in his four years with the Seahawks and four more with the Chicago Bears.
"I've had a great career so far and hopefully it will get better," said Daniels, a 6-5, 288-pound defensive end. "What I'm going to tell my new teammates is that we've got to work together on this and get it done as a team. I'm going to come in here and be a leader and do what I can to help point this team in the right direction."
Daniels' best season was in 2001 in Chicago when he produced 72 tackles and nine sacks. The University of Georgia product dropped off to just 2.5 sacks in 16 games a year ago but with a new setting he's excited about the opportunity to become a key force in the Redskins' defensive scheme.
Last year, inconsistent play plagued the Redskins' defensive line. To improve matters, their first move was to bring in Daniels, who has extensive NFL experience at both defensive end and tackle. His nine sacks in 2001 matched his career high; Daniels had nine sacks for Seattle in 1999 as well.
Originally drafted in the fourth round of the 1996 draft by the Seahawks, Daniels moved on to Chicago in 2000. By the close of last year, he had started 28 straight games for the Bears at defensive end.
In Chicago, Daniels played under defensive coordinator Greg Blache, who has since joined the Redskins as defensive coordinator and defensive line coach.
"When free agency started, we had numerous conversations to find a defensive lineman who is versatile," said Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs. "Greg told us Phillip would be a great Redskin. He's a great person, a great workout guy, and is the right kind of person."
Daniels, a native of Donalsonville, Georgia, said he started his off-season conditioning a month early this year.
"I went down to Atlanta and trained. I wanted to get in the best condition after leaving Chicago and hoping to make a new name for myself here with the Redskins," the veteran defensive lineman added.
"I had a few injuries the past few years, so I wanted to start out earlier this year. I'm getting older, so I had to start a little earlier. It really helps."
The Redskins' produced just 27 sacks a year ago. If Daniels can return to his 1999 or 2001 style of play, he could really make a difference.
Bear in mind that during Gibbs' first tenure as Redskins head coach, getting to the quarterback was vital. The 1984 Redskins defense produced a team-record 66 sacks; in six of Gibbs' 12 seasons, Washington's defense came up with at least 50 sacks per year.
In mini-camps, Daniels has been working hard to prove that he can bring a great deal to his new team. He says he has no real preference as to where he plays, so long as he sees the field.
Adds Daniels: "The Redskins have put together a good foundation here. I just want to go out and make the best of my opportunity."