Denver came up with an outstanding defensive effort last week, winning at Jacksonville 20-7. What's more, the Broncos did it without the services of their five-time Pro Bowl cornerback. Champ Bailey wanted to play but was scratched in pre-game warm-ups due to a lingering left hamstring problem. It was the first time in Bailey's seven-year career that he sat out a game.
To hear Bailey tell it on Wednesday afternoon, he'll do everything he can to get back on the field and be part of the Denver defense this Sunday against his former team. He added: "If I can run, I'll play."
Swapped to Denver last year in the trade involving running back Clinton Portis, the Redskins' top draft pick and the seventh overall selection in the 1999 NFL draft obviously hopes to have a big game versus Washington.
If that's the case, he'll have to find a way to help shut down Santana Moss, who over the first month of the season has established himself as one of the NFL's most dangerous wide receivers.
Moss and Bailey have competed just once before, in the 2003 season opener at FedExField between the Jets and the Redskins. Moss had three catches for 12 yards and Bailey produced four tackles in a game that went Washington's way 16-13.
Regarding Bailey, Moss said yesterday: "From the film I've seen, he's the same guy, a very athletic corner. You don't get many like him, with his quickness and speed. He's a corner who seeks the ball. He's like a receiver who plays cornerback.
"But you have to be sharp against everyone. You don't want to get ready more so for one guy than for any other. Whatever comes up on Sunday, I'll be ready for."
Said Bailey: "Santana's a No. 1 receiver. He's been putting up the numbers. He was really impressive in that Monday Night game against Dallas. With him, they're getting the deep ball."
The possibility looms, if he's able to play, that Bailey and Portis will be the key figures in the Week 5 contest as they try to outdo each other.
But as Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell acknowledges, a more important matchup will be played out as well. As everyone knows, it won't be Portis vs. Bailey as much as it will be Santana Moss vs. Bailey.
Said Brunell: "Champ is one of the best--if not the best--cornerbacks in the NFL. He certainly commands a lot of respect. You have to be very careful with him. The timing has to be there with the receiver and you have to be very accurate going against him. If you're not careful, you'll get picked."
The last time the Redskins played at Denver, on Nov. 18, 2001, Bailey had an outstanding game in his personal duel with Rod Smith, who was then leading the NFL in catches. But Smith registered just three catches versus Bailey in a game the Redskins won in the snow 17-10.
Bailey says the biggest difference between Washington and Denver is that the latter organization is the one known for its "stability."
Asked if he would have been happy to continue to play in Washington in 2004 and beyond, Bailey replied: "I don't know. I always make the best of my situation. I'm never going to look at a situation negatively...As long as we're winning, I'm happy. I just don't like to lose. And we were losing when I was [in Washington]."
In addition to Bailey, the Broncos, who have won three of their first four games, also feature a pair of former Redskins Pro Bowlers in tight end Stephen Alexander and defensive end Marco Coleman.
But it is Bailey's status that the Redskins will monitor closely this week.
"I'm confident I'll be able to play on Sunday," said Bailey. "But being realistic about it, 'Who knows?'