ASHBURN, Va. (AP) -At the end of Thursday's practice, Washington Redskins coach Jim Zorn figured it was time to cure the interception drop-itis that affected his team in the first game.
He came up with an exercise in which he and his quarterbacks drilled quick passes to each of the defensive backs, who caught the ball while shuttling back and fourth about 10 yards away.
Carlos Rogers, notorious for having stone hands, caught all five of his passes. Fred Smoot dropped three and had to repeat the exercise, drawing plenty of grief from his teammates.
To no one's surprise, Shawn Springs went 5-for-5.
``How'd I look?'' Springs said with a smile as he walked off the field. ``Good enough to play receiver?''
Perhaps, but definitely good enough to play cornerback.
e sideline as Plaxico Burress roamed through the Washington secondary to collect 10 passes for 133 yards.
Springs said the injury felt like ``taking a 2-by-4 across your shin,'' but that he's now healthy and ready for Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints.
``Shawn's our most experienced corner,'' defensive coordinator Greg Blache said. ``He's got real good hands. He's got a lot of savvy, and it'll really help us a great deal to have Shawn back.''
For a while, though, there was a chance the Redskins wouldn't get Springs back at all.
Springs strongly considered retirement during an offseason of heartache and personal turmoil. His father, former Dallas Cowboys running back Ron Springs, has been in a coma for nearly a year after something went wrong during what was supposed to be routine surgery to remove a cyst.
Then Shawn Springs' stepmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Then his marriage fell apart. He went to Arizona for his offseason workouts, as he always does, far away from his Redskins teammates. New coach Zorn tried in vain to make contact.
Springs was alone, and that's the way he wanted it. Returning to the Redskins wasn't on the table until June, when his 10-year-old twin sons and a cousin came to visit him in Maryland and talked him into taking them to a nearby high school to toss the ball around.
``Being out on the field with my little cousin and my two sons,'' Springs said, ``doing one-on-ones with them, throwing the ball with them, made me love it. I was like, 'I love it.' You see me out here having fun, so much fun.''
Springs came back to the Redskins fold and was welcomed wholeheartedly. Rogers was rehabbing from major knee surgery, leaving the team thin at defensive back. Rogers recovered more quickly than expected, but it will likely take a healthy trio of Springs, Rogers and Smoot to keep pace with today's pass-happy offenses.
At 33, when cornerbacks are supposed to be on the wane, Springs is still considered the team's No. 1 cover guy. He played safety at times during training camp and will probably move to that position permanently in years to come, but Zorn said the Redskins will only play him there in an emergency.
``He's seen a lot,'' said Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who will face Springs on Sunday. ``Just like any veteran corner, you've got to pick and choose your times that you're going at him. Obviously he can make you pay if you don't watch out.''
Springs has lasted this long because he takes care of his body and because he's meticulous in the film room. Springs says he studies ``like a quarterback.''
``I'll see him in pregame,'' Saints coach Sean Payton said, ``and he'll remind you how all week long he's been studying the splits and looking at the receivers and what we do offensively. That's what you want in a corner.''
Notes: LB Marcus Washington (hamstring) remains sidelined and will be a game-time decision, according to Zorn. ... TE Chris Cooley (quad) returned to practice but was limited. He's expected to play Sunday. ... RB Ladell Betts missed practice due to personal reasons. ... Once again, the quote of the week goes to Blache, when describing the need to catch those potential interceptions. ``If we don't, we're flirting with disaster,'' the defensive coordinator said. ``It's rare that the quality quarterbacks will give you those opportunities. And when you pass them up, the football gods frown on you. So in order to keep the football gods happy, you've got to catch those balls. If you want to keep the coach happy, you've got to catch those balls.''

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