- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Cornerback Champ Bailey is more worried about getting his ailing left hamstring in good enough shape to play than about settling scores if he faces his old Washington team Sunday in Denver.

“If I can run, I’ll play,” said Bailey, who sat out the entire preseason with the bad hamstring and was sidelined again last week, his first regular-season absence in his seven NFL seasons. “It’s much better than it was on Sunday. If there was a game tomorrow, I would push myself to go.”

However, even though Bailey left Washington with negative feelings toward the organization, which he felt had disrespected him during contract negotiations in 2003, he steadfastly downplayed any grudges.

“The Redskins drafted me,” said Bailey, the seventh pick overall in 1999. “I appreciate that, but I’m all about the Broncos. The Redskins are history for me. They’re just another opponent in our way. I don’t try to get too involved emotionally because we have a history. I don’t want to get caught up in the hype.”

That hype exists because a 25-year-old cornerback with four straight Pro Bowls on his resume isn’t traded very often. When negotiations on a new contract broke down in the fall of 2003, Bailey’s future in Washington became ever more tenuous.

The Redskins put the franchise tag on Bailey the following February, setting up the March 4 trade for two-time 1,500-yard runner Clinton Portis, who had been seeking a contract extension from the Broncos. Washington also gave Denver its second-round pick in 2004, which turned out to be running back Tatum Bell, a speedy change of pace to starter Mike Anderson. The Redskins replaced Bailey with Shawn Springs, a free agent from Seattle.

“It worked out good because both teams needed what they got,” said Bailey, who needed just one year in Denver to equal the playoff berth he enjoyed in Washington. “I love it in Denver. You know who the core guys are. I thought I was a core guy there, but I’m not there. … Things are a little different here. It’s stable. There’s not a lot of in and out.”

Indeed, Bailey played for different defensive coordinators in each of his five seasons in Washington while also suiting up for four head coaches. Although Bailey was a Redskin just 20 months ago, only end Renaldo Wynn, linebacker LaVar Arrington and safety Matt Bowen remain from players who started a game alongside him in Washington.

Like Portis, Bailey didn’t play to his previous standards last year. He was chosen for a fifth straight Pro Bowl despite being beaten by Oakland’s Jerry Porter and Cincinnati’s Chad Johnson in nationally televised games.

“Champ’s a true cover corner,” Arrington said. “That’s going to happen every once in a while. He’s still Champ.”

Denver coach Mike Shanahan also dismissed those lowlights, maintaining Bailey has played “extremely well” for the Broncos, who hadn’t had a Pro Bowl corner in 18 years before his arrival.

“Champ’s very athletic,” said Redskins No. 1 receiver Santana Moss, who managed just 12 yards on three catches off the bench in his only previous game against Bailey. “He has speed. He has quickness. He’s like a receiver playing corner. He seeks the ball.”

So much so that Redskins linebacker Lemar Marshall, a backup during Bailey’s last two years in Washington, thinks his old teammate could show up at receiver for the first time in a year on Sunday no matter how tender that hamstring is.

“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Marshall said with a smile.

Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell faced Bailey twice while with Jacksonville and knows he can’t make many mistakes against him.

“Champ’s one of the best, if not the best corner in the NFL,” Brunell said. “You’ve got to be very careful. You have to be very accurate. If you’re not, you could get picked.”

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