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Broncos' Champ Bailey bolstering Hall of Fame resume

JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Asked at Tuesday's Super Bowl XLVIII Media Day to identify the toughest receivers he's defended, Champ Bailey rattled off the names of Marvin Harrison, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens.


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It speaks to Bailey's staying power in a highly decorated 15-year career that his chief rivals are long since retired while he basks in the joy of his first Super Bowl appearance.

Bailey has garnered 12 Pro Bowl nods and a spot on the Pro Football Hall of Fame's All-2000s Team. He's been around so long that Washington Redskins Hall of Famer Darrell Green -- who began his career in 1983 -- was his mentor early last decade.

The epitome of a quiet leader, Bailey has the unqualified respect of Denver Broncos teammates and coaches after a trying, injury-plagued season that limited him to parts of five regular-season games.

Check out this sampler of Super Bowl-week quotes:

» Coach John Fox: "It might have been one of my fonder moments in coaching just watching him hoist that Lamar Hunt trophy there in Denver. He's been tremendous, and he's a great player, a great person and I couldn't be happier for him."

» Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie: "There is a lot you learn from him. Every day he comes to work. I've never seen him get down. He takes all his reps, he still takes notes to this day."

» Safety Mike Adams: "He is still the leader and the guy everyone looks to and the one everyone asks questions of first. Even though he was hurt, he still played a major part in helping us prepare for games and being on the sidelines telling us what he sees."

» Wide receiver Eric Decker: "Champ was always there from day one for us, when we got there in 2010. He would always let us know what worked and what didn't work, what cornerbacks look for in route running, how they try to look at splits and different things. He's definitely helped us progress and get better as receivers."

Bailey concedes he's no longer a "spring chicken." It took him much longer than expected to come back from a preseason foot injury.

"I've felt good for about a good month, and I continue to feel better, and that's all I can ask for at this point," Bailey said Tuesday. "I can't get all those days and weeks back -- that's behind me -- but what's in front of me is big, and I know it. I understand it, I feel good, and I'm ready for it."

Criticized for losing a step and relegated to slot-corner duties as recently as three weeks ago, Bailey is coming off his best game and highest snap count of the season.

In reclaiming his starting job opposite Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Bailey allowed just one reception for four yards in the AFC Championship Game victory over the New England Patriots.

Bailey has made it clear this week that the only reason he has continued to "lace them up" was a persistent belief that he could reach the promised land. Now that he's here, perhaps the future Hall of Famer will stand toe-to-toe with a historically great Seattle Seahawks Legion of Boom secondary that stole the show all season long.

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