Bowen finds inspiration after death of prematurely born son

ASHBURN, Va. -- Stephen Bowen is trying to adjust to a new team, learn a thick new playbook and figure out a new life in a new city after signing with the Washington Redskins.

Those are truly mundane facts compared to the burden that constantly weighs on the defensive end's mind.

On June 28, Bowen and his wife, Tiffany, became the parents of twins, Skyler and Stephen III. They were born extremely premature, some four months early.

Skyler died 10 days later, on July 8. Stephen III remains in a hospital in Dallas. Tiffany and the Bowens' 21-month-old daughter, Trinity, also have stayed behind in the city where Bowen played for five seasons with the Cowboys.

"Things are a lot better," Bowen said this week in an interview with The Associated Press after a Redskins practice. "It's still hard. I still think about the son we lost every day. He was just an inspiration for us. While he was here, he was fighting every day to try to be here for us. So the least I can do is just work my butt off and try to be the best football player I can be."

Bowen said the twins were born at 24 weeks, "micro preemies" considered at the cusp of the age of viability for premature babies. Micro preemies generally weigh a little more than a pound and face long-term stays in intensive care. A photo of Stephen III on Tiffany's Facebook page shows the tiny baby wrapped in a small white blanket in the hospital, looking no bigger than the gloved adult hand gently him.

"He's doing good," Bowen said. "He's still in the hospital, but he's making progress."

Bowen understandably didn't want to go into the details of his son's condition, but he's starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel. When Stephen III is released from the hospital -- perhaps as early as next month -- the family will move to Washington.

"Hopefully he'll be here in September, but we'll see," Bowen said. "If he keeps having the right progress he's having right now."

Known for his wide smile and quick sense of humor in Dallas, Bowen said the long, busy days of training camp help occupy his mind. His new teammates also are around to lend an ear.

"I talked to him about it," defensive tackle Barry Cofield said. "I'm supporting him, for sure."

Bowen also made coach Mike Shanahan aware of the situation after coming to Washington. A free agent at the end of the NFL lockout, Bowen signed a five-year, $27.5 million contract with the Redskins two weeks ago.

"I don't think you can know how he feels unless you've been in his shoes," Shanahan said. "Words can't express what he and his family are feeling."

Notes: QB John Beck (groin) continues to be held out of 11-on-11 drills. Shanahan said it's too early to tell whether or not Beck will play in Friday night's preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers. ... OL Artis Hicks missed Tuesday's practice because of a mild concussion. ... WR Malcolm Kelly (foot), S O.J. Atogwe (hamstring) and RB Ryan Torain (hand) remain sidelined.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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