Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL Nation [Print without images]

Friday, July 27, 2012
Champ Bailey was groomed for long career

By Bill Williamson

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Champ Bailey has been preparing for these days since he entered the NFL in 1999 with the Washington Redskins.

As a rookie at the age of 21 he was teammates with 39-year-old future Hall of Fame cornerback Darrel Green. The next year, cornerback Deion Sanders joined the Redskins at the age of 33.

It gave Bailey an invaluable lesson.

“Playing with those two guys toward the end of their careers really helped me prepare for this time in my career,” Bailey said. “Even back then I was thinking of the future and it is paying off now.”

Oh, is it ever paying off.

Bailey, 34, is entering his 14th NFL season and he is still playing at a high level. He's entering the second season of a four-year contract extension and is performing so well he has no timetable for how long he is going to play.

“I don’t even think about it anymore,” Bailey said. “As long as I can play well, I’m going to play.”

There have been suggestions that Bailey could end his career at safety. Yet, he said as long as he is effective playing cornerback; he is going to stay there. Bailey said the key to his late-career success is that he is still finding ways to improve.

“I think I did a lot of the little things better last season than I did before,” Bailey said. “It’s mental stuff that you have to do to keep going. I want to continue to find a way to get better in my 14th season as well … I just want to keep going like Darrell Green did all those years. He showed me you can do it regardless of age.”