- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 16, 2003

Rashad Bauman has spent his entire life being told he’s too short to play football. The Washington Redskins’ second-year cornerback, whom the club generously lists as 5-foot-8, has heard every crack in the book about his size. And he has no qualms about firing shots back.

Upon learning yesterday that LaVar Arrington has been referring to him as Lord Farquaad, the vertically challenged villain from the movie “Shrek,” Bauman was ready and waiting with a comeback for his outspoken teammate.

“That’s the ugliest guy on the team,” Bauman said loud enough for the Pro Bowl linebacker to hear. “You can’t take that personal.”

Bauman may lack the height to play cornerback in the NFL, but he’s hardly lacking in the confidence department. Neither are the Redskins, who have enough confidence in Bauman to move him into the starting lineup while Fred Smoot recovers from a fractured sternum.

“Like a lot of players on this team, he’s confident in his abilities,” defensive backs coach George Catavolos said. “As long as he knows what he’s doing and understands the system and does what’s expected of him, he’ll do just fine.”

Last year’s third-round draft pick, Bauman will be making his first true NFL start Sunday in Buffalo (the Redskins opened one game last year in a nickel defense, so he has officially started one game in his career). And with Smoot expected to be sidelined three to four weeks, Bauman figures to get several more.

“This is my first one, so I’m excited about it,” he said. “Hopefully, I won’t miss a beat.”

The Redskins don’t expect him to. Bauman’s teammates marvel with the progress he has made since his rookie season.

“His technique is better every week,” said Champ Bailey, Bauman’s Pro Bowl counterpart at corner. “Every week he’s always got something new to tell me, something he saw I did or something he learned to do. That’s a guy who’s willing to learn. And he’s gotten better each week.”

Washington took its time easing Bauman into the lineup. With Bailey, Smoot and future Hall of Famer Darrell Green ahead of him on the depth chart last year, Bauman was primarily relegated to special teams duty. He eventually overtook the legendary Green (who called him Wednesday night to wish him good luck) and finished the season as the Redskins’ No.3 corner.

Bauman retained that role this summer, beating out a subsequently released veteran, Alex Molden, during training camp. And now he feels fully prepared to move into the starting lineup, knowing well that his slow and steady path the last year and a half was worth it.

“I had Champ on one side, Fred on the other side, Darrell in the slot … where you gonna go?” Bauman said. “I had to learn, wait my time. Now that my time is here, hopefully I’ll show them.”

Washington’s defensive coaches appear to be expecting a smooth transition. They don’t plan any significant changes in pass coverage schemes against the Bills, meaning while Bailey is matched up with receiver Eric Moulds, Bauman will be left on his own to handle either of Buffalo’s other top receivers, Josh Reed or Bobby Shaw.

“He’s still in his second year in the league, so he’s not as seasoned,” Catavolos said. “But he studies as well as anybody. He understands the defense. And he’s got an outstanding competitive nature. No matter what we ask him to do, this guy’s a tireless worker.”

Given the obvious disparity in reputation between himself and Bailey, Bauman fully expects the Bills to come right at him Sunday.

“I know that I’ve got the best in the world on the other side of me,” he said. “Why try him? That’s just common sense. If they try to come at me, hopefully I’ll step up. I’m up for the challenge.”

A self-described “aggressive” corner, Bauman has no fear about playing man-to-man coverage despite his lack of experience.

Or his lack of height.

“That’s all the NFL talks about — size, size, size,” he said. “But at the same time, anybody can play football as long as you know the game. Sometimes you need the big cars that go fast, just like you need big corners. But sometimes you need that little sports car to hug the corners.”

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