\Champ Bailey has a message for all the Denver Broncos fans and fantasy football geeks who cringed at the sight of him playing special teams.
The seven-time Pro Bowl cornerback who led the league in takeaways last season wonders why anybody would fret over his new, expanded role. He, for one, isn't going to worry about getting hurt covering kickoffs.
"Football is football. I'm out there 60 plays on defense; I can't worry about it on two or three on special teams," Bailey said Thursday.
The Broncos found themselves a couple of players short Sunday at Buffalo with Karl Paymah recovering from a concussion and Domonique Foxworth going down with a high ankle sprain.
So, Bailey played safety on kickoff coverage, serving as the last line of defense, and one of his two tackles saved a touchdown in Denver's 15-14 win over the Bills.
"I'll do whatever it takes," Bailey said. "I'll even kick if they want me to."
The Broncos don't need him doing that, but they sure appreciated his contributions Sunday, especially when he collared Terrence McGee after a 48-yard return.
Bailey said he couldn't recall his last special teams tackle but said he was willing to step in whenever he's called upon: "When Sunday comes around, it's time to get it done. I just want to win. Whatever it takes."
Depending on the health of others, Bailey can expect some more work on kickoff and even punt coverage, said new special teams coach Scott O'Brien, who has never been shy about using stars.
Coach Mike Shanahan said he had no hesitation agreeing to O'Brien's request to use Bailey.
"No, the great players want to play special teams," Shanahan said. "He made a couple big plays. That's why we have him there."
O'Brien's philosophy is players put their bodies in harm's way every day, whether it's from scrimmage or on special teams, so there's no sense is protecting anyone by leaving them off the coverage or return units.
"It's a game of controlled collision, period," O'Brien said. "That's why it's important for us coaches to teach proper technique."
And Bailey's as good a tackler as there is in the NFL, O'Brien said. "It's the same thing as when he plays cornerback, it's fundamental football," O'Brien said.
Defensive coordinator Jim Bates said he doesn't view Bailey's added responsibilities as unnecessarily exposing his best player.
"When a player can help us on special teams, that's as important a play as when we're on defense," Bates said.
"Any of our players can get hurt on a regular down. If Scottie O. needs help, our guys are available. Champ did a great job the other day."
And not just on special teams.
Bailey teamed up with Dre' Bly, acquired from Detroit after the shooting death of Darrent Williams, and limited the Bills' ballyhooed deep threat, Lee Evans, to 5 yards on two catches.
Still, it was his presence on special teams that had NFL fans abuzz. Special teams are usually for backups and some starters, but rarely does a star have to pull double duty.
"Normally, it's for guys who don't play as much," Bailey said. "If it calls for me to get out there and give us the best shot at winning the game, I'm going to do it."
Maybe he should ask for a bonus.
"We're working on that," he said with a laugh.
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