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Broncos' Bailey to be gametime decision, expected to play

  • By NFL.com Wire Reports
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey hobbled around the room, barely allowing his sore right heel to touch the ground.

And this is improvement for the perennial Pro Bowl pick, who walked out of the stadium on crutches after last Sunday's victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

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This isn't the best of weeks for the Broncos' secondary to be banged up, with Peyton Manning and the high-powered Indianapolis Colts offense coming to Invesco Field. Not only is Bailey bothered by a foot injury, but fellow cornerback Andre' Goodman has a thigh ailment. Both missed another day of practice Thursday.

NFL Network's Michael Lombardi reports, via a league source, that Bailey will be a gametime decision, but is expected to play Sunday.

"They're doing better," Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said. "We're definitely hopeful that they'll continue to get better in the next couple of days. We're certainly not ruling anybody out of the game."

If veterans Bailey and Goodman can't go, Manning will see some combination of rookies Perrish Cox, Cassius Vaughn and Syd'Quan Thompson, and maybe the more experienced Nate Jones as well.

"I don't plan on letting them play in my spot," Bailey said, grinning. "It's always good to get some experience regardless of who you play. But you want to have a lot more when you play a guy like Peyton."

Manning has been able to pick apart whoever lines up in Denver's defensive backfield the last several years, especially when the team plays a young cornerback.

In a 2004 AFC wild-card playoff game, Roc Alexander was picked on often as Manning threw for 458 yards and four TDs during a 49-24 win.

Not that these rookies are shying away from the challenge.

"He's a great quarterback. You can't take anything from that -- just watching him as I was growing up, while I was in college and everything -- he's a great player," said Cox, a fifth-round pick out of Oklahoma State. "I've just got to be ready for everything."

Bailey's motivation to return is rooted more in manning the corner than facing Manning.

"My pride makes me want to get out there anyway, I don't care who we're playing," Bailey said. "Everybody wants to say that Peyton makes you want to play, but it's not about him. It's just about me -- my pride."

Should his heel be ready, Bailey might cover Reggie Wayne, who has more catches (546) and receiving yards (7,689) than any other wideout in the NFL since 2004.

It's a potential matchup that Bailey is relishing.

"That's one thing that doesn't get all the credit -- the receivers that he has," Bailey said. "They all run great routes, they're all on the same page all the time. You can give a little bit of that credit to Peyton for getting them ready, but those guys are hungry, and Reggie Wayne is definitely one of the best out there. It's going to be a workload for us."

Defensive coordinator Don Martindale has been ardently scheming this week, attempting to uncover what so many of his colleagues have failed to find in the past: a way to slow down Manning.

Asked tongue-in-cheek if this was an easy week for him, Martindale replied: "Are you serious?"

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"When you play Peyton Manning, the stress level goes up in every situation because he's so good at what he does," Martindale said. "It's almost like you have to hurry up and get in the locker room at halftime, because he's going to hurry up and come back out after halftime."

Martindale's approach won't be to trip up Manning with different looks or throw gimmicky formations at him. Manning is immune to that.

"I think you're being a gimmick to yourself if you think you can gimmick him, because he'll find it," Martindale said. "The challenge of it is playing with discipline and knowing that there's no gimmicks that are going to beat him."

The Broncos had moderate success in corralling Manning during a 28-16 loss last December. After he threw three quick TD passes as the Colts jumped out to a 21-0 lead, that is.

Manning did throw three interceptions, with Brian Dawkins picking off two.


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"You have to be on your P's and Q's regardless, because he's, if not the best, one of the best to have ever played the game," Dawkins said. "Every professional athlete should enjoy going against the best."

Martindale certainly is, even if it's producing stressful days.

"I don't want to play against him 16 straight games," he said. "But everybody that's a competitor likes to be in these situations."

Notes: The Broncos hope to have the right side of their offensive line back Sunday. But RT Ryan Harris (ankle) didn't practice Thursday, and RG Chris Kuper (knee) only participated on a limited basis. ... LB Wesley Woodyard (hamstring) went through practice on a limited basis.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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