Veteran cornerback Shawn Springs was introduced as the Redskins' latest free agent acquisition on Thursday afternoon. It will be a homecoming for the seven-year veteran, who grew up in Silver Spring, Md., and went to high school at Springbrook High School.
During an introductory press conference at Redskins Park, Springs admitted to being nervous due to all the attention he has received about returning to Washington.
"I haven't been nervous for a long time--maybe since I came out of college--but for some reason I'm nervous to come home, and it feels right," Springs said. "Growing up in the area right across the beltway playing for Oxen Hill Boys and Girls Club and then going to Springbrook High School, I never imagined I would up playing right down the street as a professional football player."
Said head coach Joe Gibbs: "We thought he really fit in to what we're trying to do and obviously he has some intangibles in that he is from this area. We really like the type of person he is. He's also a big player and we like his size as a corner--and that he doesn't mind putting his hands on people and pressing."
Springs, 6-0 and 204 pounds, was a three-year starter at Ohio State and was the third overall pick in the 1997 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. In seven seasons, he has 20 interceptions and 399 tackles in 93 games. He may have had his best season in 1998 when he recorded seven interceptions, returned two for touchdowns, and earned a Pro Bowl nod.
Springs is expected to take the position previously held by Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey, who has been traded to the Denver Broncos. Springs will also wear jersey No. 24, which was Bailey's jersey number for the last five seasons.
"I have a lot of respect for Champ and I think we have a lot of respect for each other," he said. "I think people will be surprised when they see the new No. 24. I think they're going to be excited.
"There will be pressure, but playing cornerback is a lot of pressure anyway. Obviously playing in Washington, you get a lot of attention. Being the third pick overall, coming out of Ohio State, playing in Seattle--I'm used to it."
Springs is the son of Ron Springs, the former Dallas Cowboys' running back from 1979-84.
"I was excited to talk to coach Gibbs and I told him I had mixed feelings because my dad played with the Cowboys for so long," Springs joked. "I don't know if I could hang my No. 24 Redskins jersey with all his Cowboys memorabilia.
"But I told Coach Gibbs I would love to play for him. I remember his teams well growing up in this area, seeing Darrell Green play for so many years and wanting to go to Art Monk's football camp every year. Of course with my dad being a Cowboy, that wasn't going to happen."
Springs, who became a free agent for the first time in his career this offseason, said he had talked to several NFL teams, including Cincinnati and San Francisco, before deciding to sign in Washington.
One factor in his decision may have been playing in the NFC East with coaches like Gibbs and Dallas's Bill Parcells.
"I'm a big fan of the NFC East," he said. "That's been the toughest division for years. They have had some great teams in the NFC East, with Philly's defense and John Riggins running the ball in Washington. This is a tough, physical division. I think it'll be back that way now. You have some old school coaches back in the division with Joe Gibbs and Bill Parcells."