ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- For nine weeks this season Champ Bailey has watched the Denver Broncos go to work without him in the lineup. For nine weeks, he has patiently explained that when his left foot felt right he would be back on the field.
If all goes as Bailey expects in the coming days, Sunday will be that day and the Kansas City Chiefs' Arrowhead Stadium will be the place. Bailey originally suffered the injury in a preseason loss in Seattle in August and then re-aggravated it in an Oct. 20 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
"I feel like barring any setbacks, I'll be out there," Bailey said. "That's the way I'm preparing myself this week, to play, and if nothing goes wrong, I'll be there."
"We'll work him back in practice as we have been, he has been limited; we'll continue to work him back in practice and when he can help us we'll let that occur," said Broncos interim coach Jack Del Rio.
Bailey's potential return certainly comes at an opportune time for the Broncos. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie injured his shoulder in this past Sunday's loss to the New England Patriots and cornerback Omar Bolden suffered a concussion. Bailey didn't want to expand this week on what is role might be against the Chiefs and he was still limited in Wednesday's practice. Chris Harris Jr. and Kayvon Webster worked at the two cornerback spots with the starters for much of the practice.
But for a 12-time Pro Bowl selection it has been difficult to watch defensive backs get injured and not be able to help. Before this season, Bailey had never missed more than seven games in any season. He had missed just 16 games overall in the previous 14 seasons combined. In addition to Rodgers-Cromartie's and Bolden's injuries, safety Rahim Moore is designated for return off injured reserve after surgery on lower his left leg should the Broncos make the postseason.
"That's the hardest thing for me," Bailey said. "Any time something goes wrong, I want to be in there to try to help. But, I have to make sure I take care of my body. The foot is feeling a lot better. I'm going to keep progressing through the week to make sure that I'm ready for Sunday.”
Bailey missed the first five games of the season before starting against Jacksonville and Indianapolis in back-to-back weeks. He limped off the field in Indianapolis after once again feeling pain in the arch of his right foot.
Bailey had eight tackles in the two games and knocked down three passes. Del Rio has said Bailey's presence in the defense, gives him plenty of additional flexibility in how the Broncos line up against opposing offenses. For his part Bailey sees the Broncos at 9-2 with a chance to put themselves at the top of the AFC West if they complete the season sweep against the Chiefs Sunday.
"This week is huge for us, all division games are," Bailey said. "I keep telling guys we're in a great position to do some things if we stick to what we're supposed to do. I've been trying to help on the sidelines, if I see something, trying to get that information to [rookie] Kayvon [Webster] or talk to Chris [Harris] about what I see. But I'm ready to do more. I want to be out there contributing to what we're doing. I want to help us win, what I always want."