30th birthday won't faze Broncos' Champ Bailey

June 21, 2008

ENGLEWOOD • Champ Bailey won't have a midlife crisis after he turns 30 today.

"I don't feel 30," he said. "I feel like I can play 10 more years."

The Denver Broncos cornerback isn't worried he has lost a step. If he has any concern about turning 30, it's that his time to reach a Super Bowl is shorter.

He knows all about Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Dan Marino and other superstars who never won a championship and doesn't want to join the list.

"I'm not going to lie, that crosses my mind a lot," Bailey said. "I try to block it out. You look at a guy like (N.Y. Giants defensive end Michael) Strahan. How long did he wait to get a ring? It takes awhile for some people. Some people get it in their first year. I think my time will come."

Bailey compiled a legitimate Hall of Fame resume while he was in his 20s. His eight Pro Bowl selections are tied for second all-time among cornerbacks, behind Hall-of-Famer Mike Haynes' nine. Bailey has 42 interceptions - tied for third-most among active players - which is impressive considering many teams don't test him.

"The Pro Bowls and everything are great, but it's nothing like a (Super Bowl) ring," Bailey said. "That solidifies your career."

Bailey then wondered aloud if he has a winning record in his career. He does - his teams in Washington and Denver were 77-67 - but he has only two playoff wins in nine seasons. He was close to a Super Bowl two seasons ago, but the Broncos lost in the AFC Championship Game. Denver didn't make the playoffs the past two seasons, finishing 7-9 last year.

Prognosticators aren't picking the Broncos to win the AFC West. Bailey said he thinks the direction of the team is positive, but the Broncos have many young players and patience might be needed.

"I know we have a lot of work to do," Bailey said. "Right now we just need to concentrate on being as good as we can be. We don't need to get ahead of ourselves because we have a lot of work to do, a lot of improvement, and we have to see when the lights are on what some of these younger guys can do for us."

Bailey doesn't think his career will be nearing its end by the time the young players mature. He never has had a major injury and said he feels fine. Those around him see no signs that he is slowing or that he is turning 30.

"He is? You can't tell," defensive coordinator Bob Slowik said.

"I'd be surprised if I ever get to the day where I say ‘Dang, Champ is getting old,'" said linebacker Boss Bailey, Champ's younger brother and new teammate. "I don't know, it doesn't seem like he's turning 30."

Bailey is one of the more prepared players on the team, which can help extend his career. He admits when he came to the NFL he was "all skill." Now, he says his game is about 60 percent skill and 40 percent mental. When Bailey was with the Redskins, he played with cornerbacks Deion Sanders and Darrell Green, who were 38 and 42 when they retired. They were also superior athletes who played long careers because of mental preparation.

Bailey is signed with Denver through 2010. His representatives likely will start inquiring about an extension soon, given the high salaries some free agent cornerbacks have received the past two years. Bailey said he doesn't know exactly how many more years he will play, but he's not in a hurry to leave.

"I don't believe in that leaving on top stuff," Bailey said. "That's just not me. It's a great business. It's a job millions and millions of people would love to have. You're doing something you love, making a lot of money doing it, why not keep playing? If they don't want you here, they'll kick you out."


Contact the writer: 476-4891 or frank.schwab@gazette.com. Check out our Broncos blog at gazettebroncos.freedomblogging.com

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