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Irreconcilable differences (cont.)

Posted: Tuesday March 8, 2005 11:56AM; Updated: Tuesday March 8, 2005 12:52PM
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He often commiserated with Rod Gardner, another Redskins receiver in search of a trade. "We'd shake our heads and wonder where we fit in every time we saw a new game plan," said Coles, who became a Pro Bowl receiver while playing in Steve Spurrier's pass-happy system a year earlier. "People say we're leaving now because we're selfish, but how are you supposed to be happy as a receiver when you go from a passing offense to a running offense? This wasn't what I signed up for."

Coles' main complaint about Gibbs was the coach's inflexible nature. "I didn't feel respected as a player," Coles said. "I know everything changed [when Gibbs succeeded Spurrier] but when you feel like you're one of the best players at your position, you'd think you could talk to a coach about the play-calling. We didn't have that situation. He called the plays. We ran them. That's where things fell off with me. I realize it's a dictatorship but there's only so much you can take."

When the season ended, Coles met twice with Gibbs in order to air grievances. Neither session led to any positive results. "We concluded that it was best to go our separate ways," Coles said. "I don't want to get into the details but he basically said he didn't trust me, and I said I didn't trust him."

At that point, Coles wasn't sure where his career would go, but he was excited when the Jets aggressively pursued a trade.

Coles was bitter when New York didn't try harder to retain him as a free agent two years ago so the Jets' recent interest convinced him that the team still believed in his talents. The team's lack of concern with Coles' broken right big toe has been welcome news as well. He sustained the injury in the third game of the 2003 season and the Redskins believed it hindered his explosiveness. They wanted Coles to undergo surgery after this season but he balked because doctors told him the operation should be seen only as a last option (it could be a career-threatening procedure if it's unsuccessful). Coles adds that his condition improved with the help of a cortisone shot prior to a game at Philadelphia last November. "From what I've been told, it's not a problem as long as I'm running and cutting fine," Coles said. "Until it gets to the point where I can't walk, I don't need surgery."

The Jets won't comment on the trade until it's official, but they're clearly thrilled with Coles' return. He's a better receiver than Santana Moss, whom New York gave up in the deal, and he's more appreciative of a second chance with the team that drafted him. Coles also can't say enough good things about the Jets, including "the family atmosphere" fostered by head coach Herm Edwards.

As for positive comments about the Redskins, Coles is working on that. He's already reconciled with Snyder and there's even been some progress made with Gibbs. "We came to the conclusion that if we met in the street, we could shake hands and be cordial," Coles said of Gibbs. "But that's about it."

That acrimony might subside the longer Coles plays in New York. After all, he's landed in the best possible situation. The more he focuses on that, the better off he'll be.