Shuffled off by Buffalo, Bailey settles in with Giants PRO FOOTBALL

November 12, 1993|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

ASHBURN, Va. -- It was only eight months ago that punter Sean Landeta helped sell Carlton Bailey on the idea of signing with the New York Giants.

Talking as one Baltimore native to another, Landeta told Bailey the Giants are a good organization and how convenient it is to play for a team close to home.

That's why Bailey was stunned Tuesday when the Giants waived Landeta.

"It was a very big surprise to me," he said. "I still almost can't believe it."

In a way, though, Bailey could understand the move. He has no illusions about pro football.

"It's like what happened to me last year," the linebacker said this week. "When you get to the pinnacle of pro ball, finally, it's a business. You have to see it as a business. You just sort of go with the punches. No one really has job security."

Bailey found that out in Buffalo last year.

Bailey suffered a groin injury, but played through it, starting the Bills' first 10 games before being demoted in December. Although he came off the bench to help the team pull off the memorable second-half playoff comeback against the Houston Oilers, he didn't play a single down on defense in the Super Bowl when the Bills were routed by the Dallas Cowboys, 52-17.

That's why he decided to leave for a three-year, $5.3 million contract with the Giants. He made $275,000 in 1992, his fifth year with Buffalo.

He didn't exactly get a warm welcome from the Giants players, though, because he was destined to replace a popular player on the team, Pepper Johnson.

"Pepper was one of the leaders of the defense and there was some feeling of sympathy for him," coach Dan Reeves said. "It was difficult at first for Carlton, but he's been accepted and done a good job."

"Pepper definitely had been a leader around here," Bailey said. "Any time you come in and replace a player of that caliber, it's hard."

Reeves made it easier by cutting Johnson, and Bailey has stepped in to lead the team in tackles for the first half of the season with 61, including 44 solo stops.

Bailey's agent, Tony Agnone, said that in the free-agency era, players may have to start thinking about the players they're replacing and how they'll fit in with their new team.

"That's something I hadn't thought that much about," Agnone said. "It's going to have to be a consideration."

Bailey also said he has no ill feelings for the Bills.

A graduate of Woodlawn High, Bailey was a ninth-round pick in 1988 out of North Carolina. He played nose tackle in college but switched to linebacker in the pros.

"They gave me an opportunity when no one else would give me the chance to make the adjustment [to linebacker]," he said.

After spending most of his rookie year on injured reserve with a knee injury, he tied for the lead in special team tackles in 1989 with 29 and became a starter in 1990. The biggest moment of his career came in the 1991 AFC title game, when he intercepted John Elway and returned it 11 yards for a touchdown to lead the team to a 10-7 victory and their second of three straight Super Bowls.

The Bills lost three Super Bowls, but Bailey has no regrets.

"I talked to Eric Dickerson after last year's Super Bowl and he never had the opportunity to go to one. I wear my rings with pride and hold my head up high," he said.

The Bills made the playoffs all five years Bailey played with them and he hopes to keep his string alive.

The Giants got off to a 5-1 start, including a 41-7 rout of the Redskins, but they've lost two straight to the New York Jets and the Dallas Cowboys.

"The Cowboys hit us with some big plays. They executed. We didn't," he said.

The rematch with the Redskins Sunday at Giants Stadium is pivotal for New York, but Bailey figures it won't be as easy as the first one.

"Their guys are playing with a lot of pride," he said. "If we have to get them down, we've got to keep them down. That's going to be a tough job."

NOTES: The Redskins have 10 players on their injury list, including OL Ed Simmons (knee), who's out, and DL Shane Collins (foot), who's doubtful. S Danny Copeland (neck) and DL Charles Mann (knee) are questionable and not likely to play. . . . Last week, the Redskins started four rookies, RB Reggie Brooks, CB Tom Carter, DL Sterling Palmer and TE Frank Wycheck, and all figure to go again. Palmer, filling in for Mann, said, "I'm going to do some great things for the Redskins. I hope I can be greater than him."

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