BOSTON (AP) – Shawn Springs follows Terrell Owens whenever the star wide receiver changes teams. The New England Patriots hope their new cornerback does that next season on the field.

The Patriots announced the signing of Springs, a 12-year veteran who always has played in the same division as Owens. That continues with his signing after Owens joined the Buffalo Bills, setting up a twice-a-year matchup in the AFC East.

“I texted him and told him ‘Stop following me around,’ ” Springs said in a conference call after the Patriots announced his signing Wednesday. “We’ve been in the NFC West together. We were in the NFC East together. And now we’re in the AFC East together.

“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. I guess the media people make it (seem) more like a rivalry, but it was never like that.”

The Patriots also announced the signing of former Detroit Lions cornerback Leigh Bodden, 27, adding experience to a young secondary. Bodden said Tuesday he had signed a one-year deal.

Springs, who turned 34 Wednesday, played the last five seasons for the Washington Redskins after spending his first seven years with the Seattle Seahawks, who drafted him with the third overall pick out of Ohio State.

Owens spent his first eight seasons with San Francisco, followed by two with Philadelphia and three with Dallas, which released him last week.

Ellis Hobbs, 25, starts at one cornerback and Springs could win the job on the other side. The Patriots drafted two cornerbacks last year: Terrence Wheatley in the second round and Jonathan Wilhite in the fourth. The starting safeties are James Sanders, 25, and Brandon Meriweather, 24.

“I have veteran experience that I can bring to the team but I can really run and I still feel like I can run and I can play at a high level,” Springs said.

He has started 147 of his 157 games, with 32 interceptions and six fumble recoveries. He was selected to the Pro Bowl after the 1998 season and is the only defensive back in NFL history who led his team in interceptions and sacks in the same season, 2004 with Washington.

He played in nine games last season and made one tackle with an interception and a sack. A calf injury sidelined him for the rest of 2008.

Springs played well against Owens while with the Redskins and thinks that might have attracted the Patriots to him.

“That could have helped,” he said. “But you know in New England, it’s not about one individual player. I think it’s more of a team thing, anyway. So regardless of whether it’s me or Leigh Bodden or Ellis Hobbs or Wheatley or whoever the guys are, I think with the Patriots, you have to play what the defense calls.”

Bodden spent one year with Detroit after playing his first five seasons with the Cleveland Browns, who signed him as an undrafted rookie free agent from Duquesne. He had 13 interceptions and five fumble recoveries in 75 NFL games, 53 of them starts.

He told Sirius NFL Radio on Tuesday that he settled for the one-year deal after seeking a long-term contract because he wanted to be a Patriot.

“I am just excited I finally got something done with them,” Bodden said. “We just got the one-year deal done and I am excited to go play with Bill (Belichick) and the Patriots and have a great year.”

AP-ES-03-11-09 1940EDT

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