Patriots notebook

Springs can't shake Owens

By Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Staff / March 12, 2009
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It's usually receivers who can't shake cornerbacks, but it's the other way around for new Patriots cornerback Shawn Springs. He just can't shake newly minted Bills wide receiver Terrell Owens.

Springs, whose signing became official yesterday, has enjoyed a friendly and healthy rivalry with T.O. over the years. With each joining the AFC East in 2009, it will mark the eighth straight season they'll be playing in the same division, dating to 2002, when Springs's first team, the Seattle Seahawks, switched to the NFC West.

Springs joined the Redskins in 2004 and Owens went from the 49ers to the Eagles, and then jumped to the Cowboys in 2006.

"I texted him and told him, 'Stop following me around,' " joked Springs.

"With me and Terrell, people know that I think he's a competitor, and I'm a competitor. We never made it about us. It was always both of us trying to work really hard to help our teams win."

Both sides have had their moments in the rivalry. T.O.'s famous Sharpie touchdown celebration came against Springs in 2002, and last season Springs was part of the Redskins' coverage that frustrated Owens to the point that he said he didn't get the ball enough in a 26-24 Dallas loss, even though the Cowboys threw his way 18 times and he had seven catches for 71 yards and a touchdown.

Springs, who hurt his calf in the third quarter of that game, said he shouldn't be regarded as the T.O. stopper.

"You know in New England, it's not about one individual player, I think it's more of a team thing, anyway," he said. "So, regardless of whether it's me or Leigh Bodden or Ellis Hobbs or [Terrence] Wheatley or whoever the guys are, I think with the Patriots, you have to play what the defense calls. I think T.O. coming to Buffalo will make a difference because obviously, he's a playmaker and you can't take that away from him, but that's not going to change the way that the game is being called."

Springs, who celebrated his 34th birthday yesterday, still feels he has plenty left. He missed seven games last year, six because of the calf injury and one with a shin injury.

"I still feel like I can run and I can play at a high level," said Springs, entering his 13th NFL season. "I'm just coming in to just do my part on the team and help out any way I can."

After he was released by the Redskins Feb. 27 in a salary cap move, the Eagles pursued Springs, who signed a three-year, $10.5 million deal, with incentives that could push it to $13 million, to become a Patriot. But Philadelphia wanted to use him as a safety.

Springs said the subject never came up with Patriots coach Bill Belichick, but Springs didn't rule it out.

"I have so much respect for what he's done for players in the past, I don't ask questions," Springs said. "I just said, 'Coach, wherever you want me to line up, I'll play.' "

The dotted line
The Patriots also made the signing of Bodden official.

According to an NFL source, the cornerback's deal is for one year at $2.25 million, with $1 million guaranteed. Unlike the deal for Springs, there are no incentives. However, Bodden's deal includes a clause that prevents the Patriots from placing the franchise tag on him after the season . . . Since special teams captain Larry Izzo signed with the Jets yesterday, defensive end/nose tackle Mike Wright is probably the Patriots' most noteworthy remaining free agent. Wright, who had a career-high 2 1/2 sacks last season and was credited with 33 tackles, according to coaches' calculations, could end up returning to the Patriots. A league source said Wright, who has visited with Arizona and been contacted by other teams, is in discussions with the Patriots.

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