Denver Broncos - TeamReport
NFL Team Report - Denver Broncos - INSIDE SLANT
Champ Bailey, a 12-time Pro Bowl cornerback who became one of the most accomplished players in Denver Broncos history during his 10 years with the team, was released by the club on Thursday.
"This was a difficult decision for our team with everything that Champ Bailey has meant to the Denver Broncos and this community over the last 10 years," Broncos general manager John Elway said in a statement. "Without question, he's among the best cornerbacks to ever play the game and one of the finest players in the history of the Broncos. You couldn't ask for more in a player than what Champ brought to this team. His combination of elite talent, class, leadership and competitiveness made him one of the all-time greats.
"On behalf of everyone with the Broncos, I wish Champ all the best and thank him for everything he did for this franchise. Champ will always be a Bronco. We look forward to his Ring of Fame and Pro Football Hall of Fame election in the years ahead."
There is no Broncos defensive player in the Hall of Fame, so Bailey would be the first if elected after he retires. Former Denver safety Steve Atwater advanced to the list of 25 semifinalists this year but did make the final 15.
Bailey said recently he wanted to return next season, even if that meant a move to safety. He had said before his first Super Bowl -- a painful 43-8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks -- that retirement might be an option.
Bailey will turn 36 in June and appeared in just five regular-season games last season because of a Lisfranc foot injury. He returned for the playoffs and was beaten soundly in man coverage by Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin on two big plays.
"You don't want to think about that right now," Bailey said before being released. "I think it's obvious for everybody in this (Broncos) locker room. Most people in this locker room have to deal with something coming up. You deal with it when you can."
Bailey, a member of the 2000s NFL All-Decade Team, spent 10 seasons (2004-13) in Denver, where he became one of the most decorated players in team annals. His 12 career Pro Bowl selections trail only Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Reggie White (13) among defensive players in NFL history and tie for the sixth most overall.
"I consider it a privilege to have coached Champ these last three years," Broncos head coach John Fox said. "I thank him and truly appreciate everything he did for our team. There's no doubt he played an integral role in establishing a culture of winning here.
"Aside from his natural ability, Champ set a great example with his hard work and relentless commitment to mastering his craft."
Meanwhile, agent Jack Reale believes Bailey's fate was sealed when he continued to play injured last season.
"Champ is appreciative of the 10 years he had there," Reale told the Denver Post. "It's unfortunate frankly that he tried to play hurt this year. Because most people with that injury would wind up on IR. But he felt this was a year they were going to go to the Super Bowl, and he was dadgum if he was going to watch that game from the press box or sidelines.
"He tried to get it done. And unfortunately everybody wants to judge him based on playing hurt. Which is how it goes in the league. Rarely, if ever do you get an 'attaboy' if you don't play as well hurt as you do when you're healthy."
--Sure, Denver Broncos coach John Fox is dealing with the frustration that one can expect to extract from losing in the Super Bowl by a lopsided margin. But 18 days after the humbling 43-8 shellacking to the Seahawks, he wasn't moping about what contributed to the result.
"As you look back, get a chance to look at the tape and expound on that, I think we're capable of playing better," Fox said. "Not taking anything away from them, they had a lot to do with it. It was disappointing that we didn't play better."
"It's a team thing," Fox later added. "And they had something to do with it. Give them credit. We were just awful. I think we could have executed better. But (the Seahawks) had a little to do with that. And they did that against New Orleans twice. That's a pretty good outfit."
But Fox understood the Broncos were complicit in their own demise.