Broncos’ Champ Bailey set to make 2013 debut Sunday
AP Pro Football Writer
ENGLEWOOD — Denver’s shaky secondary gets a big boost Sunday with Champ Bailey set to make his 2013 debut against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Bailey hasn’t played since spraining his left foot in the second preseason game at Seattle on April 17.
Also, Paris Lenon is set to make his first start for Denver at middle linebacker after Wesley Woodyard missed practice all week with a shoulder stinger he sustained at Dallas last week.
The Broncos (5-0) are a 27-point favorite against the Jaguars (0-5), but despite its dominance, Denver has its share of concerns, chief among them a pass defense ranked dead last in the league.
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Bailey said Friday he’s eager to finally play alongside fellow first-round pick Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who signed with the Broncos on the first day of free agency.
“I’m real excited because he’s been a great player, a guy I’ve been watching since he came into the league and I’ve seen what he’s done here,” Bailey said. “And I think we’ll be good together. We’ll feed off each other.
“We also got Chris (Harris), who will be in there most of the time, so it’s going to be a good one.”
Harris is coming back from a concussion that sidelined him for the second half Sunday, when the Broncos also lost defensive end Robert Ayers (left shoulder) to injures, helping turn what was shaping up into another rout into a shootout.
After Denver escaped with a 51-48 win, team owner Pat Bowlen approached Bailey in the locker room and implored him to play this week.
It wasn’t any pressure, but a reduction in pain that finally has Bailey ready to get back on the field.
Bailey’s return bumps Harris to nickel cornerback, although he’ll basically remain a starter because teams throw so much to keep up with Peyton Manning’s offense that the Broncos are in sub packages most of the time.
“We’re excited to have Champ back,” coach John Fox said. “He’s had an outstanding week.”
This is the second-longest absence of the 12-time Pro Bowler’s career. He missed seven straight weeks in 2008 with leg injuries.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Bailey said. “It seems like I’ve been on a long vacation and it’s time to go to work.”
More help arrives next week when All-Pro linebacker Von Miller returns from his six-game suspension.
“He definitely will make us better,” Bailey said. “But until then we’ve got to roll with what we’ve got.”
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