When Champ Bailey entered the NFL in 1999, he was a physical freak of nature whose natural athleticism was so great that at Georgia, he had averaged more than 100 all-purpose yards a game as a part-time player on offense and special teams while playing enough defense to win the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as college football’s best defensive player. But now that Bailey is about to turn 34, how does the Broncos’ cornerback now compare to that young player of 13 years ago?
“I am still as good as I was when I was 22 or 23,” Bailey told Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com.
At first blush, that would seem hard to swallow: The reality is that athletes in their mid-30s simply aren’t in their peak physical condition anymore. But Bailey acknowledges that he’s not the same athlete he was when he entered the league. The reason Bailey hasn’t declined, he says, is that he’s mentally stronger than ever.
“I can’t run as fast as I did then or jump as high,” Bailey said. “But I am smarter. I know how to take care of my body better. I know how to anticipate things a little better. I understand football a lot better, which keeps me on top of my game.”
Bailey said he can feel his age and the wear and tear of his 13 NFL seasons, and he knows he won’t play forever. But for now, he thinks he can play just as well as he ever has.