ENGLEWOOD — Champ Bailey says he's ready for an increased workload as the Denver Broncos scramble to make up for the loss of shutdown cornerback Chris Harris Jr.
Harris tore his left ACL in Denver's win over San Diego on Sunday, the latest of five defensive starters to land on IR for the Broncos (14-3), who host the New England Patriots (13-4) Sunday for the AFC title.
"I'm ready for whatever they want me to do. That's the way I prepare," said Bailey, a 15-year veteran and 12-time Pro Bowler still seeking his first trip to the Super Bowl. "I wouldn't be a surprise if that was the case."
After Harris got hurt, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers targeted Harris' replacement, 12-year veteran Quentin Jammer, repeatedly in staging a second-half rally that fell short only when Peyton Manning executed the 4-minute offense in sealing the Broncos' 24-17 win.
Bailey played in a career-low five games this season because of a nagging left foot he originally sprained in mid-August. He played the final two games and the divisional playoff in the slot, leaving Harris and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the outside.
The Broncos might decide to match up Bailey with Tom Brady's favorite target, Julian Edelman, and give more playing time to cornerback Tony Carter or rookie Kayvon Webster if they decide not to go with Jammer again.
Bailey sounded as though he has confidence his foot can hold up for a full game, something that wasn't the case when he played at Kansas City on Dec. 1. He missed the second half of that game and was inactive for the next two weeks before returning in a reduced role.
Asked if he could go back to his old spot at left cornerback Sunday, Bailey said, "I'm ready to do whatever they ask me to do. We're still putting together what we're going to do this week. If that is what it comes down to, then I'll be ready for it."
Another, albeit less likely, option, is activating Marquice Cole, whom the Broncos signed Tuesday. Cole was released by New England on Dec. 26.
Cole's contributions might be limited to helping out in practice and maybe providing tips to Denver's defensive backs about the Patriots' receivers.
Cole scoffed at the notion he could provide any usable intel to Manning.
"There's nothing really I could tell him that he doesn't already know," Cole said.