Sea Change Seattle corner Shawn Springs has a new coordinator--and a new outlook

August 17, 2003

Another dreary season in Seattle had ended, and Seahawks
cornerback Shawn Springs was fed up. Ray Rhodes and a marathon
meal at The Cheesecake Factory changed all that.

Last February when Seattle coach Mike Holmgren hired Rhodes to be
his third defensive coordinator in five years, the talented but
disgruntled Springs wanted out of the Pacific Northwest. "I was
talking to the Seahawks around that time, telling them I wanted
to get traded," Springs recalled last week between practices at
the team's Cheney, Wash., training camp. "We were bad on
defense--couldn't stop the run, couldn't pressure the passer--and
it was just killing me."

Rhodes, a man about as subtle as Arnold Schwarzenegger's
political ambitions, would have none of it. He and Teryl Austin,
Seattle's newly hired secondary coach, flew to San Diego, where
Springs was engaged in off-season workouts, and the trio had what
the seventh-year cornerback estimates was a four-hour lunch in
Mission Valley.

"The first thing Ray said was, 'Man, come on, now--don't do me
like that,'" Springs recalls. "We sat there at The Cheesecake
Factory and talked about everything. I told him how I'd felt
about the last four years, that I was tired of taking the blame.
And I came away thinking, This is the guy who's going to make me
a player."

The third pick in the 1997 draft, Springs blossomed into a star
in his second season, earning his sole Pro Bowl berth after
intercepting seven passes and scoring three touchdowns. Then
Holmgren replaced Dennis Erickson, and Springs began a gradual
descent marked by injuries (ranging from turf toe to hamstring
problems) and, in 2001, a four-week suspension for violating the
league's policy on anabolic steroids and related substances.
Seattle is 47-49 in his six seasons and, in its only playoff
appearance during that period, lost in the wild-card round in
1999.

The blunt and cantankerous Rhodes, who resigned after two years
in Denver as Mike Shanahan's defensive coordinator--the Broncos
had the league's sixth-ranked unit last season but were shaky in
the red zone and on third down--is being hailed as a savior by
the Seahawks' veteran defenders. Springs, whose contract expires
after this season, isn't sure whether this will be his last year
in Seattle, but he's certainly excited about the season ahead.
"If I look bad in Ray Bob's defense," Springs says, "then I can't
play."

COLOR PHOTO: STEPHEN DUNN/GETTY IMAGES Springs (right) thinks he can be a hit in Rhodes's defense.

Look for Michael Silver's Open Mike column at si.com.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)