ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Turns out Feb. 2 will not only be a circled date on Champ Bailey's career calendar because it is the first Super Bowl the Denver Broncos cornerback will have played in during his decorated career. It will be the first time he has been to the NFL's title game in any fashion.
"I watch it, but I wouldn't go. I tried not to go if I was not in it," Bailey said Friday. "I've never been to a Super Bowl. This is definitely my first one."
Bailey, now in his 15th season, has been named to the Pro Bowl 12 times. He is a player Broncos head coach John Fox has called a "first-ballot Hall of Famer," but the closest he ever got previously to the Super Bowl was the Broncos' loss in the AFC Championship Game to close out the 2005 season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers went on to win Super Bowl XL in Detroit.
"The funny thing about it is when you get that close, you don't think you're that far away," Bailey said. "You think you're going to get there again, but it's obvious, it took eight years to get back [to the AFC Championship Game] for this organization. Anything can happen."
The Broncos missed the playoffs in '06, '07 and '08, so then-head coach Mike Shanahan was fired. The Broncos then missed the playoffs in '09 and '10 and Josh McDaniels was fired. There was a crushing playoff loss, in the divisional round, to the New England Patriots to close out the 2011 season and last season's disappointment with the double-overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Bailey said along the way -- and mostly when he "was younger" -- he would attend some of the festivities around a Super Bowl, but he did not attend the game. It is the Broncos' first Super Bowl appearance since current executive vice president of football operations John Elway led the team to back-to-back Super Bowl wins to close out the 1997 and 1998 seasons.
Many of Bailey's teammates have said the player they were most happy for in the Broncos' locker room is Bailey, as well as quarterback Peyton Manning -- following his spinal fusion surgery in 2011.
"I love the respect my teammates give me," Bailey said. "But it's not about me. It's about this organization. That's the reason I stuck around here, because I knew it was coming at some point, that we would get a shot. Here we are."