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Infamous Portis-Bailey deal gets face-to-face evaluation

October 09, 2005|By EDDIE PELLS

DENVER

In the salary-cap era, the blockbuster trade is pretty much a thing of the past. The Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos were an exception, though, when they got together for a swap of Pro Bowl players Clinton Portis and Champ Bailey.

Over the ensuing 19 months, hardly a week has passed during which one or the other hasn't been asked the question: Who won and who lost?

And now, a month into their second season with their new teams, maybe it's safe to say that both teams came out ahead. Each has three wins coming into the second weekend of October.

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Of course, only one team can push the total to four today, when the surprising Redskins, 3-0 for the first time in 15 years, play the Broncos (3-1) - and Bailey and Portis take to the same field for the first time since the deal.

"I think both teams turned out pretty well," Portis said. "Champ is a great guy and a well-proven player. They knew that when they got him. He's gone to four or five Pro Bowls. And with me coming off my first Pro Bowl, they knew what they were getting."

While political correctness reigns this week among all who played a role in this trade, there certainly are some issues that have lingered under the surface for both players.

Bailey had reason to think his talents were being wasted by a Redskins franchise that lacked stability and sense of direction. Portis had reason to think his talents weren't being fully appreciated by a Broncos organization that preferred a more buttoned-down approach.

Some of Portis' angst may have come from Bronco arrogance _ the long-held belief in the organization that pretty much any runner can gain big yards behind the Denver line and in the Denver system.

After all, journeyman Reuben Droughns, a fullback through most of his career, gained 1,240 yards as the everyday back who succeeded Portis last season. Meanwhile, in his first year with the Redskins, Portis gained 1,315 yards and his average per carry went down from 5.5 in his final year with the Broncos to 3.8.

Many times, Denver coach Mike Shanahan has brought up such stats. This week, he's being careful to avoid them. Portis, meanwhile, bristles at the notion that he was just an interchangeable part with the Broncos.

"I think people recognize the talent level," said Portis, who joined Droughns, Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary and Mike Anderson as Denver's 1,000-yard rushers of the past decade.

"People recognize the difference," Portis said. "Those guys are really good guys, and they're really good friends of mine. At the same time, I think I brought more than just my athletic ability. I brought laughs. I brought joy. I brought a sense, an attitude and a swagger that is hard to find."

Indeed, Portis had the flashy clothes, the outrageous quotes and, of course, the famous championship belt proclaiming him the "Heavyweight running back of the world" that he paraded around Invesco Field after scoring five touchdowns against the Chiefs in 2003.

Some think his attitude took its toll in his relationship with Shanahan and triggered the trade, which also netted the Broncos a second-round pick they used to take Tatum Bell.

Bailey, meanwhile, isn't as flashy, but he brought a sense of confidence and stability to the Broncos' secondary. Last season, he parlayed that into his fifth Pro Bowl and was named an Associated Press All-Pro for the first time.

He had interceptions in the first two games of this season and some say he saved the game _ maybe the season _ on the first play of the second half against San Diego when he left his coverage area to step in front of a Drew Brees pass, intercept it and return it for a touchdown that started a big Broncos rally.

So who won in the trade?

"One thing people don't understand is we play different positions," said Bailey, who is nursing a hamstring injury and will have his status determined at game time. "I can't do what he does, and he can't do what I do. That's kind of irrelevant. Who cares? All I know is that we've got to stop the run, and he's their running back."

Portis has improved this season, as have the Redskins in their second year under Joe Gibbs. The second-round pick out of Miami in 2002 has 263 yards through three games. His average per carry has increased to 4.2.

The Redskins are winning and, suddenly, Portis is loving life again. He wasn't so happy last season.

"When you're losing, you're finding all kinds of things to be frustrated with," he said. "When you win, it's so much easier to get along with people. It's so much easier to get through your day."

Last year, Bailey went to the playoffs for the first time since his rookie season, and he's feeling like he has a good chance to get back again.

He says it's nice being with an organization that has shown more stability than most over the past several years. The Redskins went through four coaches in his five seasons there, and Bailey began to wonder if his talents were being wasted in Washington.

"Things are a little different" in Denver, Bailey said. "The way the organization is run is a lot different, but who's to say the correct way to run it? It's stable. There's not a lot of in and out. You know who the coach is. You know who the core guys are. I thought I was one of the core guys there, but obviously I got out of there."

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