Cornerback Champ Bailey will find his way into the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he finally decides to retire, but until then he is sharing his wisdom with Denver Broncos' rookie cornerback Kayvon Webster.
As part of Gillette Clear Gel’s “Built for Training” program, Bailey will mentor Webster in front of NFL Films for a six-installment video web series that shows some of the tough elements of an NFL training camp. As with anything NFL Films produces, the videos are very well done.
Bailey was kind enough to chat with Bleacher Report about his involvement with the program, mentoring young players, his legacy, the change in Denver's secondary, Charles Woodson and Super Bowl expectations. He also discussed how he's been able to stay healthy and maintain such a high level of play for so many years.
B/R: What’s it like getting paired up with a rookie like Kayvon Webster?
CB: It’s been great being part of this mentor program. It’s been good because it really allows me to focus on one guy and what he’s doing and what he's progressing to be—a pro. You know, I can help him along the way. I've had the privilege of working with younger players before, but not one-on-one as much as Kayvon.
B/R: How did you get involved with the Gillette “Built for Training” program?
CB: Once I knew we drafted a corner, I knew I was going to be doing something like this, but not specifically hands-on. Whenever he started it was a no-brainer for me to kind of take part in it. I want to be part of his development and try to help mold him into a good pro, so it was a pretty easy deal to pick up.
B/R: Do you feel like mentoring younger players is part of your legacy?
CB: Absolutely. I think as a veteran player, in general, you should feel that sense of responsibility to try to lead these guys to becoming good pros. You want the league to be in good hands, and you want these guys to become great NFL players and then pass it along to the next generation. You can only lead by example, and that’s pretty much what I’m trying to do.
Champ Bailey talked about the rise of safety Duke Ihenacho.
B/R: What’s it been like with so much change in the secondary this year?
CB: Well, it’s been good. We kind of inserted another young player into the lineup; Duke (Ihenacho) has been playing great for us. Having Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie come in and then watching Chris Harris and Tony Carter still develop.
We have a great group of guys, and I think that’s the bottom line what makes it better because we all pretty much know each other. To have some guys come in and just try to jump to fit right in. That’s one thing about defensive backs: We always find a way to get along. That means a lot to me that our room is probably the most close-knit room on the team; it feels good to have that.
B/R: Did something click for Duke Ihenacho, or has his progress been more gradual and we just didn’t see it?
CB: Well, I know you guys definitely haven’t seen it because you just didn’t see all our practices throughout the season last year and didn’t get to see OTAs as much either. I’ve seen it progressing to this, and I’m not surprised.
I’ve seen how he works. I’ve watched him a lot, enough to know he has great instincts. Putting all that together, it was only a matter of time before we had to find a place for him on the field. That’s really what it’s come down to: He’s too good to leave on the bench, and we’ve got to find a place for him.
Champ Bailey has been lucky enough to stay healthy throughout his career.
B/R: Is there something you do that not every player is willing to do that enabled you to stay healthy throughout your career? Is there something you do that has enabled you to continue to play at a high level for so many years?
CB: I’ve been blessed with some luck, great ability and athleticism. That’s really what’s made me a great player, but I think the reason I’ve been able to last this long is the little things (like) taking care of my body. If something’s wrong, I make sure to address it right away and not try to let it linger because it creates a bigger problem.
That’s the main thing. You just have to understand your body, and when your body tells you something you just have to react. I’ve been able to do that, and I’ve been pretty disciplined about that.
B/R: How does a player like you continue to improve?
CB: Well, I think you just got to be real with yourself and not just let yourself pass on things that tend to become a bad habit. Make sure you stay on top of practicing well and preparing the way you always do. You can’t really sway from what got you where you are. Once you do that, you're going to lose everything. I've been pretty conscious of that. I also talk to a lot of older guys that have played with me and guys that I’ve played against just to try get some advice.
Champ Bailey calls Charles Woodson a friendly rival.
B/R: You mentioned you talk to older guys. Is passing wisdom to younger players what it’s all about when we are talking about Champ Bailey’s legacy?
CB: Yeah, it means a lot. You spend so much time with these guys you kind of feel related to them. It kind of happens naturally. It’s not something I asked for, but it’s a natural thing that progresses once you get older. You want to be able to pass it along, and you want to see this league in good hands.
I want to be able to look back and say that I helped that guy, and then maybe he can pass it along to a younger guy when he’s older. That’s really what it’s all about.
B/R: You made some pretty strong comments about Charles Woodson signing in Denver this offseason, and he signed with your rival. What is your relationship with Woodson like today? Would you say you are friends, friendly rivals or just loose acquaintances?
CB: We’re obviously friendly rivals now, but he’s a guy that I respect a lot. I wouldn’t say we are friends, but I know he’s watched me throughout my career, and I’ve watched him throughout his career. I’m very observant of what he does, and I really admire the way he plays the game. I’ll always have a lot of respect for him because we did a lot of the same things in college and a lot of the same things in the pros. He’s a guy I kind of looked up to a little bit.
I’m not going to say we are friends, but he’s a guy I definitely respect a lot.
B/R: Are there any guys in your career who really helped you become the player you are today?
CB: I can give a lot of credit to some good coaches and several veterans, but one guy that kind of sticks out is Darrell Green. Our relationship back in Washington—I had him my first three years or so (actually four), and he just kind of told me what it was all about as far as covering and keeping your body healthy. He was in his 17th or 18th season, telling me little things about how to prepare and how to get warmed up.
I learned a lot of that stuff from him, and I think that’s why I’ve been able to play as long as I have at a high level, because of the things he taught me.
Champ Bailey didn't bring up quarterback Peyton Manning when discussing the team's expectations in 2013.
B/R: Is it tough to be a Super Bowl favorite because of the nature of the NFL with injuries, etc.?
CB: You try to deal with things as they come because all you know is what you have, and you go from there. If something happens, you find the quick fix and try to make it still work. That’s life of the NFL. If things change, we’ve just got to adjust.
Every team is going to have to deal with something along the way. The best team is going to win in the end—that’s the team that is most prepared, clicking at the right time with all their pieces on the same page. That’s usually what a champion ends up looking like in the end.