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October 28, 2014


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Former Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey, a 12-time Pro Bowler and seven-time team captain, informed the club on Tuesday of his retirement from the National Football League.

Bailey, a 15-year NFL veteran and 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 history. He played his first five NFL seasons with the Washington Redskins, who selected him with the No. 7 overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft from the University of Georgia.

Bailey’s 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. Eight of his Pro Bowl selections came with the Broncos, tying for the second-highest total in team history behind Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway.

In 215 career regular-season games (212 starts), Bailey totaled 983 tackles (837 solo), 52 interceptions (464 yds.), 235 passes defensed, three sacks (26 yds.), nine forced fumble and five fumble recoveries. His 52 interceptions were the most among NFL cornerbacks during his 15-year career (1999-2013), and his 235 passes defensed led all NFL players during that period.

Bailey started 10-of-11 career postseason games, recording 34 tackles (30 solo), two interceptions (105 yds.) and 10 passes defensed.

After making the Pro Bowl during four of his first five NFL seasons with Washington, Bailey was acquired by Denver in a 2004 trade that sent running back Clinton Portis and a second-round draft choice to the Redskins. He immediately made his mark in Denver, totaling 21 interceptions during his first three years with the club and earning first-team All-Pro honors from the Associated Press following each of those seasons.

Bailey finished his Broncos career tied for fourth on the club’s all-time interceptions list (34), including a personal-best 10 interceptions in 2006 as runner-up for the Associated Press’ NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

A visible presence for the Broncos off the field, Bailey was a two-time recipient of Denver’s Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award (2008-09) for his work in the community. He also was honored with the Darrent Williams Good Guy Award in 2011 for his cooperation and honesty in dealing with the media.

The first back-to-back winner of the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame’s Pro Athlete of the Year Award (2005-06), Bailey was named the Denver Athletic Club’s Athlete of the Year for 2010.

One of college football’s most dynamic players during his career at Georgia, Bailey contributed on offense, defense and special teams for the Bulldogs. In his final collegiate season, he earned consensus All-America and first-team All-Southeastern Conference recognition in addition to winning the Bronko Nagurski Award as the nation’s top defensive player. 

A Class-A all-state selection in football at Charlton County High School in Folkston, Ga., Bailey was born on June 22, 1978, in Fort Campbell, Ky.

“Every professional athlete knows and understands that at some point his career will end and it will be time to move on to another phase in life. For me, that time is now.

“I have been truly blessed. I have been able to play this NFL game I love for 15 seasons and yet, it seems like only yesterday that my dreams came true when I received the call from Charley Casserly letting me know the Redskins had made me their first pick in the 1999 draft. I thank them for that.

“Then in 2004, Mr. Bowlen, Mike Shanahan and Ted Sundquist gave me the opportunity to come to Denver and be a Bronco. I had the privilege of playing in front of the best fans in the NFL.

“John Elway then brought Peyton Manning here, and I had the chance to play with one of the greatest quarterbacks ever and make it to the Super Bowl. I could not have played for a better organization or had better teammates and coaches. I thank them all.

“I have tried to conduct myself in a manner that would be a credit to my family, my team and my organization. I thank them all for their love and support.

“After considering offers to play for other teams this season, I have decided that now is the right time to pursue a new career path available to me. It’s a decision made after great thought and, for this reason, I announce my decision to retire. I thank you all for your support. 

“God bless and Go Broncos!”

“Owner Pat Bowlen will always consider Champ Bailey one of his favorite players for the first-class manner in which he represented the Denver Broncos during the last decade. He was a great leader for his team and a tremendous ambassador for his community. On behalf of the Broncos, I congratulate Champ on his extraordinary NFL career and thank him for everything he has done for this organization.”

“Champ was the pillar in this organization for a long, long time. He brought great stability to the Broncos not only as a player but as a person through his ability and leadership. When I came here in 2011, he was the guy that we were going to build around and we were fortunate to have him for three more years to get this team back on track. He was a big part of that turnaround.

“The thing about Champ was he had great ability as a shutdown corner while also not being afraid to stick his nose in there and be a part of the run game. He was a complete corner with tremendous toughness and ability to cover. I believe Broncos fans respected him not only because of the example he set on the field but also because of his hard work in the community.

“I congratulate Champ on his Hall of Fame career. Not many had better careers than Champ Bailey, and I bet when he looks back on his he will be able to say he put everything he had into it.”

“Champ was the consummate pro and a real student of the game. He studied, took care of himself physically and helped younger players. He worked hard on and off the field, and that’s why he was able to play so long at a taxing position like cornerback.

“I’ve been blessed to coach many great players, including Rod Woodson, who is in the Hall of Fame, and I don’t think there is any question that Champ also will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He’s as a good as there has ever been not only as a cornerback but on defense, period. He earned respect from his teammates and held guys accountable. He was a big part of turning this program around, and I will always cherish my time coaching Champ.”

“Champ Bailey is one of the best cornerbacks ever to play in the NFL, in my opinion. I competed against him a number of times and had the great privilege of playing with him for two seasons in Denver. He was a great teammate in the two years we were here together, and it was very easy to see what made him such a special player.

“His knowledge of the game and his understanding of offenses—with different pass pattern intricacies and combinations—was very impressive. He had unbelievable cover skills and unbelievable ball skills. He caught the ball like a wide receiver did. Going all the way back to my days playing against him in college, he was truly a great competitor with talent and work ethic. That’s what made Champ such an incredible player.”

“The one thing you realize when you get a guy like Champ is what a special player he is. You can see his skill on film, but what you don’t know is what a great guy he is, how he practices, how accountable he is and how much you enjoy being around him.

“With Champ, you just didn’t have to worry about the receiver on his side of the field. When you talk about Hall of Fame cornerbacks, those are the guys you can say that about. That’s what Champ did. He could sit on short routes because he was so fast, and he had the speed to accelerate as well.

“He always played at a very high level and had such a presence and class about himself. You just don’t find guys like Champ Bailey very often.”

“Champ Bailey is one of the best to ever do it, in my opinion. A great conserver of energy, Champ wasn’t in a rush to get to anywhere fast unless it was on the football field. He was one of the most knowledgeable and gifted players I’ve ever played with.

“Congratulations, Champ, on an excellent career, and like I told you right before every game we played, ‘It was a pleasure and honor going to go to battle with you.’”

“I first became impressed with Champ when I got to know him at the Pro Bowl. His skill was obvious. He was one of the best tacklers I have ever seen. Coupled with that, he was able to play shutdown, zone and bump and run. He did it all and was truly a complete player.

“We decided to come to Denver together with hopes of winning a World Championship. Although that never happened, I had the privilege of playing with someone I believe is one of best cornerbacks and one of the greatest defensive players this league has ever seen. I’ve had the chance to play with first-ballot Hall of Famers in Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks, and Champ Bailey certainly fits in that category.”

“The trade to get Champ Bailey is one of the best moves the Broncos have ever made. We got his best 10 years in the NFL, and I’m grateful to be able to call him a friend.

“His work in practice was the foundation for excelling in the games, and he served as a great example for any athlete.

“I wish him continued success in his life after football.” 

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