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Veteran Bronco Bailey ready to cover Lions' young buck

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey has watched Calvin Johnson's ascension to elite wide receiver status from afar.

On Sunday, Bailey will get a firsthand look at the explosive Detroit receiver for the first time since a 2007 matchup when Johnson was a raw but talented rookie.

"Back then he was a young pup," Bailey said. "He wasn't polished yet, but he's figured that thing out real fast. He has no issues now. He's using everything he has -- size, strength, all his speed. You see all the different parts of his game coming out."

Through the first seven games for Detroit (5-2), Johnson is the NFL leader with 10 touchdown catches while ranking third in the league in receptions (41) and fourth in yards receiving (689).

"They throw the ball up to him in the red area. They throw the ball up to him on deep balls, and he's come down with most of them," Broncos coach John Fox said. "He's a tremendous talent with a big, physical body that is a tough matchup."

More often than not, it figures to be Bailey drawing the coverage assignment.

A 10-time Pro Bowl defender who has showed no signs of slowing down, Bailey said he was on Johnson for only two or three plays when the teams played in 2007. Bailey will face him singled up on occasion Sunday and the Broncos also will throw in double teams.

"Out of 60-70 (plays), he's going to get one or two," Bailey said. "Do I want him to? No. Do I believe he can? No. But it's going to happen. It always does and I know history repeats itself. It's been happening all these years like that. It's not going to change. My mentality is I don't want to let it happen, so you're going to get everything I've got every single play."

Notes: RB Willis McGahee missed a second consecutive practice because of a broken finger and probably won't be available Sunday. ... DB Brian Dawkins was excused from practice Thursday because of illness. DE Elvis Dumervil (ankle) was again held out of practice. ... Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas said he learned quite a bit about running patterns from watching Johnson when both were at Georgia Tech. The two remain in touch and had a phone conversation this week.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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