- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 18, 2003

A 5-9 season hasn’t done much to improve the Washington Redskins’ fading reputation as a model NFL franchise. The individual reputations of Champ Bailey and LaVar Arrington, however, remain as strong as ever. That became clear yesterday when both were named to the Pro Bowl despite the Redskins’ failures as a team.

Arrington was selected for the third straight year at outside linebacker. Bailey will make his fourth straight trip to Hawaii at cornerback, though this isn’t the kind of postseason football he desires.

“I would take wins and championships over this any day,” Bailey said. “Trust me, any day.”

Washington also had three offensive players named as alternates to the NFC squad: wide receiver Laveranues Coles (a first alternate), plus tackle Chris Samuels and guard Randy Thomas (both third alternates).

The selection of Bailey and Arrington in balloting by fans, players and coaches is further confirmation of the reputation each has built during the last few seasons. Arrington, in particular, is not having his best season but clearly has earned the respect of his peers and others during his career.

“It’s been a long year. Things haven’t gone the way they should have. But still guys continue to keep pressing on,” Arrington said in his first statement to the media in nearly two months.

Aside from his paid weekly radio appearance, the frustrated linebacker has not spoken publicly since the Redskins’ bye week in late October. He broke the silence only briefly yesterday, answering one question about his Pro Bowl selection before walking off.

“It definitely means a whole lot coming from the fans,” Arrington said. “I hate to sound selfish, but I needed it.”

Arrington, who was selected with fellow outside linebackers Derrick Brooks of Tampa Bay and Julian Peterson of San Francisco, has 104 tackles (67 solo), five sacks, six forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Bailey, too, has established a reputation as one of the game’s top players and appears to have added to it this season after playing through some serious injuries.

Through most of the first half of the season, he had a sprained left wrist and a sprained left shoulder. Bailey, though, missed just one practice (after receiving a cortisone shot) and earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his efforts in Washington’s victory over New England on Sept.28.

“Champ’s special to me. One of those players comes out every 10 years,” Redskins defensive backs coach George Catavolos said. “He went through about three or four games where his injuries may have hurt his performance, but he didn’t come out of the games, and he didn’t miss practice. I feel very fortunate to be around a player like that.”

Said Bailey: “I used my brain more this year than my body.”

A Pro Bowl selection in 2000 and 2002 who also played in the game in 2001 after being named an alternate, Bailey is one of three corners on this year’s NFC team, joining Detroit’s Dre Bly and Philadelphia’s Troy Vincent.

Already considered by many the league’s top cornerback, Bailey could find out how much he’s really worth this offseason when his contract expires. Negotiations on a long-term extension have gone nowhere, and it appears as if Washington will have no choice but to use the franchise tag on Bailey.

Such a move would keep him in a Redskins uniform for one season with a salary around $6million, but another club could swoop in and take Bailey if it was willing to give up two first-round draft picks.

Asked if his fourth straight trip to the Pro Bowl might help his cause for a hefty contract, Bailey said jokingly, “I don’t think it can hurt me.”

None of Washington’s three alternates was overjoyed with yesterday’s news. Samuels, a Pro Bowl pick the last two seasons, knows he has played better in the past. Coles and Thomas have been alternates before and were hoping for full invitations. But even if Coles were called up to replace someone, the stress fracture in his right foot might prevent him from playing.

A handful of Redskins with a chance to be first-time selections were passed over, including tackle Jon Jansen, cornerback Fred Smoot and kicker John Hall.

The Pro Bowl will be played Feb.8 in Honolulu. Starting lineups will be announced Jan.3.

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