- The Washington Times - Friday, December 10, 1999

Washington Redskins cornerback Champ Bailey has learned that picking off three passes before a national audience has a drawback heightened expectations.
“The week after, you have to go try to do it again or something close to it,” Bailey said. “You set a standard and everybody expects you to do it every week. I know it’s not going to happen every week. I know I have to make plays every week.”
Bailey’s hat trick Oct. 17 in a 24-10 victory over the Arizona Cardinals including a 59-yard touchdown earned him NFC Rookie Defensive Player of the Month honors. Redskins fans rushed to buy Bailey jerseys in local stores and recently made him their choice as the leading NFC rookie and No. 2 NFC corner for the Pro Bowl.
Yet Bailey has endured the inconsistencies that nearly all rookies experience. The No. 7 pick in the NFL draft hasn’t made an interception since the Arizona game, and quarterbacks are beginning to beat him on double-pump, misdirectional plays. He’s having a fine season, but it’s not always as rewarding as it was that night under the desert lights.
“I’m on a [steady] climb, but one week it’s up and the next it barely moves,” he said. “Every time I make a mistake I know I shouldn’t. You just try not to make the mistake again.”
Said coach Norv Turner: “Champ has made great plays, good plays, and has had tough times. When you’re a rookie, it’s to be expected.”
Bailey’s first two pickoffs came against Cardinals quarterback Jake Plummer in the second quarter. The first was intended for receiver David Boston, but Bailey stepped in and streaked 59 yards for the score. The second was headed for receiver Rob Moore on a busted play. Bailey saw Plummer scrambling and knew Moore would freelance from his intended route.
“Jake underthrew him, and I caught it,” Bailey said. “The route Moore ran wasn’t the one he was supposed to. It was more of a situational route.”
After Plummer went out with a broken finger, Bailey’s third interception came in the third quarter off Dave Brown, who also was trying to connect with Moore.
“I know they like to go deep with Moore, so I just made them think I was coming off the ball late,” Bailey said.
Cardinals coach Vince Tobin has a foolproof plan to stop Bailey: “Don’t throw the ball to him.” But seriously, Tobin isn’t eager to test Bailey in Sunday’s rematch at FedEx Field.
“He’s going to be a dominant player in the pros,” Tobin said. “He has great quickness, acceleration everything you look for in a corner.”
Bailey is a low-key person who spends lunch hours playing dominos with linebacker Shawn Barber between their lockers. He doesn’t openly exude confidence but doesn’t lack it either. Still, Bailey found the pickoffs reassuring.
“It was a big confidence-builder,” he said. “It let me know I am capable of making plays in this league. I never doubted that, but to go out and do it makes you feel better. It was a most productive game, but there were other games I’ve done good things.”
Bailey quickly impressed teammates in the preseason opener when he returned New England quarterback Drew Bledsoe’s pass on the opening drive 46 yards for a touchdown. Although he has been beaten on some trick plays, teammates continue to be surprised by Bailey’s play.
“He still has to get the stop-and-go, two-pump routes, but he’s been pretty solid for a rookie,” safety Leomont Evans said. “We expected Champ to make some mistakes, but compared to some rookies he hasn’t made many.”
Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said Bailey’s only shortcomings will be corrected in time.
“The things that get Champ in trouble are experience factors, not physical limitations,” Nolan said. “You’d like to dump experience into the guy’s head, but he has to go through everything to get there.”
The Redskins have delayed until next season any plans to use Bailey at wide receiver or returning punts to avoid overloading the rookie. However, he has become one of the surest tacklers on kick coverage units as the final defender.
“I love special teams. Any chance I get to be on the field, I take advantage of it,” Bailey said. “Your career doesn’t last that long, and you don’t want to look back and wish you’d done more.”

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