DENVER — His answer was incongruous. Cornerback Champ Bailey spent the bulk of his keynote speech at the Denver Area Council Boy Scouts breakfast emphasizing the importance of repetitions. Yet, he insisted his address was not practice for his Hall of Fame induction in July.
“I haven’t thought about that yet,” Bailey said with a disarming smile. “It’s been more than I even thought (to be elected to Canton).”
Bailey spoke of the importance of practice to the kids in the audience, his sons included. He singled out Colorado State coach Mike Bobo for praise, saying he learned the nature of relentless pursuit in workouts set up by his Georgia teammate in the summer of 1997. Bailey remains an example of what happens in a career when the best player is also the hardest worker.
He advanced from a Pro Bowler to a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Bailey singled out a conversation with Marty Schottenheimer during his third season in Washington for providing necessary motivation and humility. Schottenheimer was disappointed in Bailey’s play, and asked him to think of team, not himself. Bailey vowed never to let players down.
It led to a remarkable career, defined by 52 interceptions, including 10 in 2006. He knows what works. And he offered his advice to new Broncos Vic Fangio when I asked what represented the key for the new coach orchestrating a rebound.
“You gotta play great defense. I don’t know how much evidence you need. You saw it in the Super Bowl (won by the New England Patriots over the Los Angeles Rams). Defense is how you win,” Bailey said. “Offense is great. You don’t want to turn the ball over. You don’t do that, and you are probably going to win. You gotta start on the other side of the ball.”
The Broncos believe they will improve under Fangio, who plans to implement a slightly different scheme with more zone coverages and corner blitzes. Tackling cornerbacks remains critical. The team’s best corner, Chris Harris Jr., remained away from the facility this week during voluntary workouts as he seeks a new contract. He’s willing to stay patient, according to multiple sources. The Broncos share his interest in discussing a new deal, but not until after the draft. Harris credits Bailey for microwaving his development as a young player. Bailey weighed in on Harris’ situation on Tuesday.
“I hope to do it through you guys in the media (that he needs a new deal). Hopefully, we relay the message. It’s probably already been relayed. I think it goes without saying that he’s been underpaid for a while now,” Bailey said. “They know that. They know they have a bargain. Basically, I said it up there, they want cheap labor. If you are going to get it, you try to get it the best way you can, that’s from the team’s perspective. From Chris’ perspective, you have to get what you deserve.”
For Bailey, the last few months have been dizzying. Life changes when you achieve football immortality. He looks forward to his time to shine in July, a moment made more special with owner Pat Bowlen’s induction.
“It’s so rare for a player to go in with an owner, especially an owner you know, you’ve been around, laughed with and joked with,” Bailey said. “It’s hard to explain. It really is. It is something you never imagine happening, and now here you are and we are living it.”