Cornerback Champ Bailey's regular season unveiling for the Washington Redskins brings a daunting assignment. Bailey said yesterday he expects to cover Michael Irvin for most of Sunday's opener against the Dallas Cowboys at Redskins Stadium.

"He's a great player," said Bailey, the Redskins' first-round selection in April's college draft. "He's a future Hall of Famer. I've watched him for a long time. I know what kind of player he is."

Irvin was the Cowboys' leading receiver last year for an eighth straight season, with 74 catches for 1,057 yards. But he had only one touchdown reception, and there is talk of him being slowly phased out of the Dallas offense.

Still, he remains one of the greatest wide receivers in NFL history. He's big and physical, so the Redskins apparently intend to use Bailey most often on him while the smaller Darrell Green matches up with Raghib Ismail. Bailey said his practice-field battles with Redskins wide receiver Michael Westbrook have prepared him for Irvin.

"I've had my share of Michael Westbrook," said Bailey, who was 10 years old when Irvin made his NFL debut in 1988. "They're kind of similar."

Coach Norv Turner was less committal about Sunday's coverage, saying of Bailey: "He'll get matched up with Ismail. He'll get matched up with Irvin. It'll be a great test."

Bailey still is waiting to be worked into the Redskins' offensive mix at wide receiver. Turner is waiting for Bailey to be fully comfortable at cornerback before giving him additional responsibilities.

Said Bailey: "I'm not disappointed. I'm just sitting back, waiting. I'm not putting any pressure on the coach. I'm not making any threats. We'll just see how this first game goes."

Paul Back at Practice

Reserve cornerback Tito Paul participated in yesterday's practice after sitting out Monday's workout to rest a sore knee.