Once more, Champ Bailey will start in the Pro Bowl. Once more, he finished the year among the elite at his position, earning second-team All-Pro honors.
Yet the ninth season of Bailey’s exemplary career left him somewhat disheartened. He hadn’t been a part of a losing season since his final campaign with the Washington Redskins in 2003.
Individually, his streak of Pro Bowl bids continued to expand, and with eight in succession, Bailey is beginning to approach the territory at which Hall of Fame status becomes a legitimate possibility many years in the future.
“I appreciate the respect I get, but it’s a little bittersweet when you think about the team goals not being reached,” Bailey said. “It’s just one of those things. You’ve just got to live with it.”
He also had to live with the fact that his season closed with three interceptions, his lowest total since 2004. As in previous years, relatively few passes flew in his direction compared to the right side of the defense, manned by Dre’ Bly, but after he notched 18 interceptions over the 2005 and 2006 seasons — eight in ’05 and 10 in ’06 — procuring just three passes seemed uncharacteristic to some.
To Bailey, it was just one of the vagaries of his position.
“Every year is a little bit different,” he said. “When you look at numbers, every year is a little different. My numbers are going to be good some years and not good some years. That’s just the way people attack me and the plays I make.
“I think around the league when people look at the big picture, I get my job done. Plain and simple.”
Which is why he has one more game left in his season — a game that once again he’ll be starting, but not the one in which he wants to play in February.
“I’m never satisfied with where I finish the season,” Bailey said. “I think although Pro Bowls are great, I’m also striving to get to the Super Bowl. I’ve got to play well to get there, so I can’t go backwards any time.”