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 as a free agent defensive end signed by the Washington Redskins.
Those are truly mundane facts compared to the burden that constantly weighs on Bowen'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. Stephen III remains in a hospital in Dallas. Tiffany and the Bowens' 21-month-old daughter Trinity have also stayed behind in the city where Bowen played for five seasons with the Cowboys.
"Things are a lot better," Bowen told The Associated Press following 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 around him.
"He's doing good," Bowen said. "He's still in the hospital, but he's making progress."
Bowen understandably did not want to go into the details of his son's condition, but he is 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 are also 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," the coach 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 Beck will play Friday in the preseason opener against Pittsburgh. ... OL Artis Hicks missed Tuesday's practice because of a mild concussion. ... WR Malcolm Kelly (foot), S Oshiomogho Atogwe (hamstring) and RB Ryan Torain (hand) remain sidelined.
Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP