ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Pacing the sideline in street clothes for nine games this season was downright difficult for 12-time Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey.
Standing there helmet in hand as the Chiefs drove 83 yards in the closing minutes of the Broncos' game at Kansas City last weekend was pure anguish.
Even though he was active for the first time in more than a month, the 12-time Pro Bowler was helpless once again to do anything more than cheer on his teammates in the fourth quarter as he's done for all but one game this season.
"I think I got to the point where I knew I needed to shut it down. That was the decision we made and we live with it," said Bailey, whose day was done by halftime. "My thing now is just to get my body and my mind right and just try to keep getting better."
Soothing his suffering was safety Mike Adams, who knocked away Alex Smith's fourth-down pass to Dwayne Bowe in the end zone from the Denver 13 after rookie cornerback Kayvon Webster slipped on the play.
That preserved Denver's 35-28 win that gave the Broncos (10-2) control of the AFC playoff race in their quest to atone for last year's playoff failure.
Bailey, who logged 30 snaps in his first game since aggravating a nagging left foot injury in an Oct. 20 loss at Indianapolis, said he realizes he's not going to ever be 100 percent this season.
"Yeah, I guarantee that won't happen. I know I won't be. That is something I'll have to live with," he said.
Bailey hurt his foot in a preseason game at Seattle and didn't play until Week 5 against Jacksonville, where he had six tackles in the only full game he's played this season. But he reinjured the foot the following week against the Colts and didn't play again until Sunday, when cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was out with a shoulder injury.
Playing mostly in the nickel package, Bailey had the wind knocked out of him on a tackle just two plays into the game and left for several snaps before returning and finishing the first half with four tackles. After halftime, Webster and Chris Harris Jr. were the cornerbacks in the base defense with Quentin Jammer replacing Bailey in the nickel.
"Clearly he was a little bit rusty in terms of not feeling comfortable and being at his best," defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said. "The guy is a 12-time Pro Bowl player. He's an excellent football player. But everybody needs to sharpen their skills to stay on top and so he's no different than anybody else in that regard and we expect him to be a week better."
Bailey, 35, said he suffered no setbacks this time around, and was a full participant at practice this week. Still, he was downgraded mid-day Friday from probable to questionable for Sunday's game against Tennessee (5-7).
"I'm better. I think it was a good test last week to see where I was," Bailey said. "I'm obviously not where I want to be. It's just trying to be patient with it."
Offseason surgery isn't in the offing.
"No, I don't think so. It is a thing that has healed pretty good," Bailey said. "I'm just not confident in it yet. That's pretty much what it boils down to."
What could be in his future after this season is a move to safety, and with a salary cap number of $10 million next year, the Broncos may need him to renegotiate his deal, too, in order to stick around Denver for a comeback in 2014.
All of that is for another day, however.
For now, Bailey, bad foot and all, is trying to help jumpstart Denver's 27th-ranked defense and help Peyton Manning and the Broncos' turbo-charged offense win a Super Bowl.
"I feel like we're close," Bailey said. "We just have to keep getting better and start clicking at the right time."
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