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Broncos' Bailey still a champ at cornerback

The SportsXchange

Another week, another one-on-one matchup for Champ Bailey against one of the league's best wide receivers, with Tampa Bay's Vincent Jackson lurking on the horizon Sunday. Lather, rinse, repeat.

After being occasionally placed solely at left cornerback, where teams could avoid him by simply shuttling their lesser receivers to that side, Bailey returned to his lock-down, singular-focus role of being primarily assigned to the opponent's top receiver to shut him down in one-on-one coverage this season.

The results have been what one would expect from a perennial Pro Bowler like Bailey who appears destined for a quick induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- but not what one would expect from a 34 year old who has been the subject of speculation the last two years that he would move to safety at some point before the end of his career.

Sure, Rod Woodson did it, and Tampa Bay's Ronde Barber is doing it now after spending 16 years at cornerback. Neither did anything to damage their reputations; if anything, they were enhanced.

"I kind of look up to them," said Bailey. "They show me how it's done as far as the move or taking care of themselves, just little things like that."

But Bailey sees their move as being the wrong one for him -- although he didn't say he would never accept a shift to safety.

"I don't plan on doing that," he said."

And why would he? In spite of facing a succession of receivers that has included New Orleans' Marques Colston, Carolina's Steve Smith, Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe and Houston's Andre Johnson after a mid-game reassignment in Week 3, Bailey has only surrendered one touchdown in the Broncos' last 17 games, including the playoffs. That touchdown was scored by Cincinnati's A.J. Green, and Bailey responded by squaring the duel with an interception one quarter later.

Furthermore, Bailey has taken the better of Jackson more often than not. In 12 career games against the Broncos, Jackson has never broken the 100-yard mark and has averaged 3.1 receptions for 49.8 yards. Not bad, but nothing dominant, either.

"You know, I think I got lucky a lot," Bailey said. The guy's a great player and he's proved it. You look at him this year, he looks different, he looks more motivated, like re-energized. He's playing at a higher level."

The numbers bear that out; Jackson is on pace for career highs in every major statistical category for a wide receiver.

"I think he battled some things the last couple of years in San Diego, so he looks fresh as can be," Bailey said.

So does Bailey, who has seen everything -- including 11 different defensive coordinators. He's seen so many changes that he saw the same coordinator, Mike Nolan, in two seasons a decade apart (1999 with Washington, 2009 with the Broncos).

But he hasn't seen life from the safety spot. And he hopes that remains the case for years to come.
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