- The Washington Times - Friday, October 31, 2003

Washington Redskins cornerback Champ Bailey walked off the practice field in street clothes yesterday. Yet another cortisone shot — this one midweek — was to blame for his first missed workout since he sprained his left shoulder Sept.21 against the New York Giants.

Asked to demonstrate his range of motion, he reached his hand up straight over his head, then slowly lowered it and pulled his elbow back behind him, as though readying a punch.

“These two [moves] were the worst,” he said, then laughed. “Before that shot? No. It wasn’t happening.”

And this is Washington’s healthy cornerback.

Bailey’s determination to practice and play through pain the past six weeks has made it easy to forget he is injured. But he has endured enough pain that he has undergone repeated anti-inflammatory injections and even weighed having surgery — an option that caused deep consternation among Redskins officials, sources said.

Bailey won’t miss any game time, though. Not with fellow cornerbacks Fred Smoot (chest) and Rashad Bauman (ankle) absent or at best limited tomorrow at Dallas. And not with Cowboys wideouts Joey Galloway, Terry Glenn and Antonio Bryant forming perhaps the NFL’s most dangerous trio. And not, frankly, with Bailey’s determination to be out there.

“If I can walk, I’m probably going to be out there on the field,” said Bailey, who has started all 71 games in his five NFL seasons. “The only thing keeping me out is if something happened to my head or legs. But other than that, I’m going to play with it.”

A chip fracture to Bailey’s wrist, also suffered in the Giants game, attracted more attention than his sprained shoulder, but the shoulder clearly has been more significant. Although he didn’t miss any practice time until yesterday (he said coaches instructed him to sit out), he departed Redskin Park each afternoon with a huge ice pack strapped to his shoulder.

The combination of practicing every day and an outstanding game against New England on Sept.28 — Bailey won NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors with an interception, a forced fumble and seven tackles — made his injury situation pretty much an afterthought in the media.

But not to Bailey or his teammates. Fellow Redskins noticed how he played through pain that grew worse and seemed to peak Oct.19 at Buffalo.

“I remember there was an instance in the game where a couple players were like, ‘Take him out. He’s hurt. He’s hurt,’” defensive end Renaldo Wynn recalled. “He stayed out there. I’m sure the only way he would have come out is if the coach would have forced him to come out.”

Wynn endured a similar situation last season when he kept quiet about a strained groin. Observers wondered why his statistics weren’t too good after he signed a six-year, $21million contract — just as Bailey recently was criticized for giving up passes during Washington’s three-game slide.

“I know exactly where he’s coming from,” Wynn said. “You can’t play at that level because of injury. You’re not saying anything. And I think people forget you’re even injured. They’re looking at him like, ‘What’s going on?’ But the man’s hurt. He’s a warrior.”

Scrutiny of Bailey is particularly high because he rejected the Redskins’ nine-year, $55million extension proposal before the season. His contract situation makes playing more of a gamble. He could cost himself money if he struggles or is injured more seriously.

“That’s one thing that people constantly bring up,” Bailey said. “It comes in my mind every so often. But I try to block it out. Yeah, I know this is my career and my life, and I can’t screw that up. But I could screw it up any day, even if I was completely healthy. You never know — some freak accident could happen.”

But there are intangible benefits to Bailey’s participation, too. Safety Matt Bowen pointed to the controversy the Redskins have endured the past two weeks and said the perseverance of a team leader is something that rebuilds what bickering strips away.

“That’s what brings a team together, especially at a time like this,” Bowen said. “Guys who are out there playing hurt want to win. They’re out there for a reason. They’re not there just to hang out. That’s what I think will turn this season around.”

Bailey, for his part, has grown weary of the Redskins always needing to turn around their season. After making the playoffs as a rookie in 1999, he has seen plenty of turnover with no results.

“Every year, you think it’s something different, but it’s been the same thing,” Bailey said. “Basically, we get into a situation where we’re losing and we try to figure out what the problem is. Of course, we constantly bring in new players. We constantly make changes. But it’s been the same way. It’s frustrating.”

So is taking pain shots, sitting out practice and battling injuries — even if few people know just how badly it hurts.

“My whole thing this year was I was going to make it through the whole season with no pain shots,” Bailey said. “It didn’t work. Third game I get hurt, and I’ve got to start taking them again. I mean, I’ve played with nicks and nacks, but this is a lot more painful than in the past.”

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