JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Ray Lewis did it last year. Michael Strahan did it six years ago. John Elway did it 15 years ago. They all retired as Super Bowl champions, the ultimate NFL farewell.
"I'm not really thinking about retiring if I win," he said Sunday night at a media session aboard the Cornucopia Majesty cruise ship, docked outside the Broncos' team hotel. "All I'm thinking about is winning. ... After the game is over, we'll talk about it then."
Bailey, 35, is one of the feel-good stories at the Super Bowl. He's one of the best cornerbacks in history -- a 12-time Pro Bowl selection -- and a future Hall of Famer, but this is his first Super Bowl. He was floating on water as he spoke to reporters, but it probably felt like air. He never bothered to attend a Super Bowl as a fan because he wanted to experience it as a player before anything. Sure, he watched on TV, but never with any animosity.
"I never said, 'It should be me,'" said Bailey, who came close when the Broncos lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2005 AFC Championship Game.
There was some question as to whether or not he'd make it back for this game, as Bailey played in only five regular-season games because of a serious foot injury. He admitted it "definitely took longer than expected" to return, but he insisted his availability for the postseason never was in doubt. He played a key role in the Broncos' win over the New England Patriots for the AFC championship. He wouldn't say he's 100 percent, but he said his foot feels good and he's ready to go.
Bailey received a lot of criticism for his subpar performance in last season's playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Naturally, there were whispers that he was washed up. That loss, he said, fueled his motivation -- and the entire team's, he said.
As coach John Fox said, "It put a fire in our belly." Bailey added, "It definitely created a different sense of urgency" when the team reconvened for OTAs.