Steve Smith says Champ Bailey is the greatest to ever do it

Watching this Denver Broncos defense is just about as fun as football gets. From the defensive line on through the linebackers to the safeties, there’s not a single weakness to be found.

The Orange Crush has truly been reborn.

Each week, the stars come out to play. Without exaggeration, not only are there nine or 10 guys probably worthy of a Pro-Bowl bid, but five or six guys could be looking at an All-Pro nomination, too. The amount of talent on this Broncos defense is truly absurd, and yet it feels like there’s still one person missing … Champ Bailey.

I can’t be the only one, right? Aqib Talib and Chris Harris are about as good as they come, but a part of me wishes No. 24 had been able to stick it out for just a few more years; I know this would be just as special of a run for him as it is for us.

But when Father Time comes calling, it’s hard to turn back. Still, that doesn’t mean Bailey has been forgotten.

In fact, earlier this week, Steve Smith — who also got an unwanted visit from Father Time last Sunday — still has a lot to say about the Broncos all-time greatest defender — in my eyes, at least.

The one guy who’s always jumped out at me was Champ Bailey,” Smith aid on the nationally-syndicated Talk of Fame Network radio broadcast, via ESPN. “I remember going against Champ in 2003, and I ran a route … I think it was the first or second play … and I beat him. I beat him pretty good. He was pressed up. And then the next three or four plays, he just bench-pressed me. They lined me up at running back, and he lined up at linebacker. I just loved that there was no part of the field that he wasn’t willing to go.

“And I think that’s kinda been lost a little bit in this day and age,’’ Smith continued. “You hear a guy who says he’s a lock-down corner, but let a guy go in the slot, and he’s nowhere to be found. Let a guy line up at No. 3 [wide receiver], and he stays outside … and then they go to a different coverage. Well, you can’t be lock-down if you’re only locking down certain portions of the field.’’

What stands out to me the most in that statement is “bench-pressed.” I’ve been lucky enough to stand next to Bailey a few times in my life, and the first thing I noticed was that he’s not a huge man. Yet, I’m not sure if I ever saw Champ miss a tackle, and when he tackled someone, he tackled someone. He was one of the toughest dudes I’ve ever seen, and I think everybody who ever shared a field with him recognized that instantly.

Champ may have been unassuming in real life. He was never one of those cornerbacks to talk trash in the media or start making a scene on the sideline. To the casual fan, he tended to slide under the radar, never really making enough noise to draw any real attention to himself. But within the football community, it’s clear that Champ Bailey is one of the most universally respected players to have ever played the game.

All you have to do is listen to Smith describe why Champ Bailey is the greatest to ever do it to understand why.

“It’s so hard now because there are a ton of good corners,” Smith said. “But the reason that I really just say Champ is because everybody wants to talk about the success of all these guys who are in their fourth or fifth years. I’m in my 15th year, and I’m 36. Some of these guys, when I was a rookie, were in elementary school. So I’m not going to crown a guy who’s been in the league six years and had three years of success and three years of failure or average. I want to see how he is in three or four more years when his speed goes, and he has to learn how to use his technique. That’s just me, but that’s where I feel like the legacy is built.’’

If you want it, I’m sure we can find a spot for you at the end of the bench, Champ!