ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Broncos defensive backs grab, hold, and use all "the little tricks," to slow down opposing receivers. At least that's what Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said this week.
And Thursday, the Broncos collectively yawned at that assessment, not literally anyway, but certainly in both words and deed as they casually swatted it all away.
"Somebody brought it to my attention, no biggie," Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey said. "Everybody's entitled to their own opinion."
In an abbreviated conference call Wednesday with media in Denver -- held when quarterback Peyton Manning was speaking to a large throng elsewhere outside the Broncos facility, Romo was asked a question about the secondary he is facing this week.
"They do a great job with their hands, they grab, they hold, they almost put a lot of pressure on the refs -- whether or not they're going to call the game close or not," Romo said. "If they get called once or twice, that's a good thing. But they're all over guys as far as using the little tricks, I guess you could say, that good linebackers and good secondary use when they're playing man coverage outside."
Broncos defensive backs were flagged eight times against the Giants -- 13 penalties were called on Denver overall by Gene Steratore's crew. But the defensive backs were not flagged against Oakland and the secondary drew just one flag last Sunday against the Eagles (a defensive holding call on Tony Carter). The Broncos are aggressive in coverage and play in press -- right up on the receivers at the line of scrimmage -- more than many teams do in these pass-happy times.
"We work hard to get the opposition slowed down, do our best to compete. I think they're a good offense and we're getting ourselves to play ... I'm not real concerned with that," Broncos defensive coordinator said about Romo's comments. "We're just working to do the best we can to slow them down ... get the ball for our offense and help our team win."
Opposing defensive backs have been flagged for six penalties in four games against the Cowboys this season, with three of those coming in Dallas' Week 2 loss to the Chiefs.
Bailey, who hasn't played in a game since an Aug. 17 preseason loss in Seattle because of a left foot injury, has practiced on a limited basis this week. After two weeks of saying he was close to returning, Bailey continues to hope for the best. "It's up in the air," Bailey said Thursday. " ... Getting more confident about the things I'm doing." On watching the team's 4-0 start from the sidelines each week, Bailey said that he "can't even put into words how frustrating it is." He said he still feels pain when he makes movements in coverage, including when he transitions from the backpedal to run. But he added those instances are happening less with each week. "One thing about corner, you can't predict where you're going, so when I have surprise moves, those things catch me off guard sometimes," Bailey said. "You know, that's diminishing as we go along." In Bailey's absence the Broncos have looked to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to play like a No. 1 corner, including matching him up on certain receivers no matter where they are lined up -- including the Ravens Jacoby Jones and the Eagles' DeSean Jackson. Those are jobs Bailey would normally have, but he said Rodgers-Cromartie has more than been up to the challenge. "He's played great, I can't remember him having a season like this," Bailey said. " ... He's playing like an elite corner right now."
With the Cowboys' Chris Jones being a left-footed punter, the Broncos brought in a left-footed punter for a workout Thursday to kick to the team's returners. Trindon Holliday and Wes Welker spent time after Thursday's practice fielding punts. Holliday is second in the NFL at 14.7 yards per punt return and had an 81-yard punt return for a score against the Giants.
It's safe to say that Del Rio would have liked to have drafted Cowboys tight end Jason Witten back in the day. The Cowboys made Witten, who is tied for second on the team with 21 catches this year and is third all-time at the position in career receiving yards (9,140), their third-round pick in the 2003 draft. Del Rio was in his first season as Jaguars head coach then. The Jaguars selected quarterback Byron Leftwich in the first round, cornerback Rashean Mathis in the second and guard Vince Manuwai at 72nd overall, in the third round. The Cowboys selected Witten with the 69th pick overall. "He's just everything you want in a tight end, big guy, athletic, great hands, he can block, he can catch, he can run, he's a good football player," Del Rio said Thursday. "I remember being at Tennessee scouting some defensive guys way back when and saw him workout and all I could do was drool over him ... he's been a good player for a long time." The Broncos will likely use a combination of linebackers and safeties on Witten in Sunday's game.
Del Rio on if he's had contact with USC officials: "No, there's nothing to speak [about] on that subject. I'm here to talk about the Cowboys."