Broncos cornerback Bailey makes eighth straight trip to Pro Bowl
DENVER – Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey doesn’t need gaudy numbers to draw attention to his play.His reputation is already well established.Despite just three interceptions this season, Bailey was named to his eighth straight Pro Bowl squad Tuesday. Bailey will start at cornerback, along with New England’s Asante Samuel.He was the only Broncos player to earn the Pro Bowl honor, the fewest the team has placed on the list since 1988.Bailey’s eighth straight selection to the Pro Bowl is the longest current streak among all active NFL defensive players. Players are selected to the Pro Bowl based on an equally weighted vote of NFL coaches, players and fans.”It’s a little bittersweet because we haven’t met our team expectations for the season, but it’s an honor to be respected around the league and by fans,” Bailey said in a statement.Bailey had a career-high 10 interceptions in 2006, which hindered him this season as opposing quarterbacks preferred to pick on fellow cornerback Dre’ Bly instead. Bly leads the Broncos with five interceptions and has 19 pass deflections.However, Bailey found other ways to chip in, lending his textbook tackling skills to special teams when they were struggling. Bailey had five tackles on kickoff coverage.Bailey leads the Broncos secondary in tackles this season and has deflected 14 passes on those rare opportunities when quarterbacks decided to test him.Safety John Lynch had been a Pro Bowl fixture as a member of the Broncos, making the team the last three seasons.But his streak was snapped this season after being hobbled by injuries, missing three games with groin and neck ailments.The Broncos’ subpar 6-8 record didn’t help the team place more players on the Pro Bowl list. Denver had a few other players with strong credentials for inclusion:- Defensive end Elvis Dumervil is fourth in the AFC with 11 sacks, including four multi-sack games.- Brandon Marshall has 1,136 yards receiving this season, ranking him fifth among his AFC counterparts. He also has 86 catches and six touchdowns.- Offensive tackle Matt Lepsis has been one of the mainstays on an injury-plagued line this season. Denver lost Ben Hamilton (concussion) and Tom Nalen (torn biceps) to season-ending injuries early in the season.- Linebacker D.J. Williams is tied for first with Houston’s DeMeco Ryans for the AFC lead in tackles with 121. Williams is in his first season at middle linebacker after taking over for perennial Pro Bowler Al Wilson.Ryans, along with Baltimore’s Ray Lewis, made the team at inside linebacker.Broncos release punter Todd SauerbrunThe Denver Broncos released beleaguered punter Todd Sauerbrun on Tuesday, bringing in his training camp rival Paul Ernster to replace him.The team also placed safety Nick Ferguson on the injured list with a right knee injury and waived safety Marviel Underwood, opening up a spot to promote safety Roderick Rogers to the roster off the practice squad.The Broncos declined to comment about the release of Sauerbrun.However, Sauerbrun’s problems off the field may have contributed to the team’s decision. Sauerbrun faces legal trouble stemming from an incident outside a restaurant in early December. He’s scheduled to appear in court Jan. 15 on an assault charge.Sauerbrun was also waived by Denver last season following his suspension for the first month for using a banned dietary supplement. Upon his reinstatement, the Broncos and Sauerbrun went separate ways, and he signed with New England.The 38-year-old Sauerbrun returned to Denver on a one-year, $1.4 million contract after being granted his release from the Patriots last spring.Sauerbrun was averaging 46.8 yards a punt this season, with a net average of 36.1.The Broncos have struggled on special teams under Scott O’Brien, who was brought in this year to revamp the unit.Denver’s problems were highlighted against Chicago as the team surrendered a 75-yard punt return to Chicago’s Devin Hester, followed by an 88-yard kickoff return by Hester. Sauerbrun had another kick blocked in Denver’s 37-34 loss to the Bears in overtime.Ernster, a seventh-round pick by Denver in 2005, was beaten out by Sauerbrun for the starting job in August. He punted in the season opener for the Cleveland Browns before being waived.Sauerbrun lost his starting spot to Ernster last season while serving his suspension for using ephedra in an attempt to lose weight and gain extra energy for his workouts.After rejoining the Broncos in April, Sauerbrun vowed to repay coach Mike Shanahan for giving him another chance, just like Shanahan did in 2005 after Carolina gave up on Sauerbrun following a series of distractions, including a drunken driving arrest.Shanahan said earlier that Sauerbrun will pay the price if he’s found guilty. However, the Broncos coach noted that he should be afforded due process before any speculation is made about his future in Denver.Shanahan has a history of backing his players. He defended running back Travis Henry earlier this season when he fought the NFL over a failed drug test.Henry, who won his appeal of a one-year suspension, earned Shanahan’s full support after he passed a polygraph test and had a hair sample come back negative for marijuana.Sauerbrun proclaimed his innocence last week, and said he was frustrated over the assault charge stemming from an altercation with a taxi driver outside a restaurant.”It’s a false allegation and the truth will come out,” Sauerbrun said. “It’s a completely overblown issue.”
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