ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Champ Bailey admires Ronde Barber. He just doesn't want to follow in his footsteps.
Barber is a 37-year-old cornerback who has been converted to safety this season and has four interceptions, which leads the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Denver's next opponent.
Bailey, 34, is the most decorated cornerback in league history with a record 11 Pro Bowls. He said he appreciates Barber's longevity, but doesn't foresee himself ever switching to safety.
"I don't plan on doing that," Bailey said Thursday. "I do admire the way he's been able to play at a high level. He's one of those guys I do look up to and kind of pay attention to what he's doing."
As Bailey gets long in the tooth himself, he said he also looks up to former NFL great Rod Woodson, who moved to free safety his last five seasons after a torn ACL ended his days as a cornerback.
Another player he reveres is former teammate Darrell Green, a Hall of Famer who played cornerback at Washington his entire 22-year career. Bailey played with Green from 1999-2002, the last three of which, Green was a reserve.
"Yeah, I've always said if it comes to the point where I have to come off the bench, I don't know if I could deal with that," Bailey said. "And he did it for like three years. So, we started together that one year but after that he was coming off the bench. So, I don't know if I'm made that way. We'll see. But right now I just think about what he used to do to prepare himself for games, after games, I remember all that stuff."
It's long been thought Bailey would switch to safety after his skills started to decline — and they've shown no signs of dipping in this, his 14th NFL season.
Asked to clarify that he'll never consider a move to safety, Bailey retorted: "I didn't say that. I said I don't PLAN on it."
Since entering the league as the seventh overall pick out of Georgia in 1999, Bailey ranks third in the league and first among cornerbacks with 51 interceptions. He also leads the league with 199 pass breakups since 1999, just ahead of Barber's 197.
Bailey is having another stellar season and in January could tie the NFL record for most Pro Bowls played with 12 — but that's one honor he'd rather leave to Randall McDaniel and Will Shields because he'd rather be back home getting ready for the Super Bowl the following week in New Orleans.
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