JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Richard Sherman and the Seahawks corners may be stealing the spotlight, but the quiet return of Champ Bailey to the Broncos' secondary has not been overshadowed.
The career leader in Pro Bowl appearances for a cornerback (12) had to step through criticism of his play (his coverage was blamed for two Ravens touchdowns in Denver's elimination game last season) and an injury to his foot, which limited him to five games in the regular season.
When fellow cornerback Chris Harris tore his ACL, Bailey stepped back onto the field and isn't looking back.
"Yeah, it's been tough," Bailey said. "I felt good for about a month, and I continue to feel better. And that's all I can ask for at this point. I can't get all those days and weeks back. What's in front of me is big and I know it, I understand it, I feel good, I'm ready for it."
Broncos coach John Fox chimed in as well on Bailey's comeback, and how it strengthened his view of his cornerback.
“It’s been a frustrating season for Champ, up til recently," Fox said. "He spent many games inactive, but he was always there, in that defensive room, in the DB room. His guidance, his leadership was always there, that never waivered. He stayed positive, sometimes that can be a tricky thing when things aren’t going as planned. He weathered it. He got himself back healthy. A lot of hard work on his part as well as our training staff."
Fox's respect is warranted, as Bailey even provided one of the coach's favorite highlights this past season.
"It might have been one of my fonder moments of coaching was watching him hoist that [trophy] a couples weeks ago in Denver," the coach said. "He’s a great player and a great person and I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Unlike some of his teammates, Bailey is resigned to just let the week happen, let his play speak for itself and decide what his postgame reflection will be when the time comes.
"I'm just kind of taking it in stride," he said. "I'm not trying to make any plans about what I'm gonna do, just let everything come naturally. I don't know what it feels like, win or lose."