The sky was Colorado blue and the stands were a bright, shining sea of orange.
Peyton Manning proved once again — as if he really ever had anything to prove — that he is one of the greats in NFL history. Champ Bailey finally is getting the trip of his lifetime. And Broncos fans, who screamed their voices raw, have another big party coming soon.
Champ Bailey, a 12-time Pro Bowl cornerback, has decided to retire from the NFL after 15 seasons to pursue other opportunities, his agent Jack Reale told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Tuesday.
“At this time, Champ has decided not to accept on-field opportunities and pursue another career path,” Reale said. “He could be playing right now if he wanted to be.”
“To play the end of this season and maybe next season, given his opportunities, he could have done that,” Reale said. “But he decided it was best to move on to those other areas. I think everybody on his team agreed that was a good approach.”
The 36-year old Bailey was cut by the Denver Broncos in March, a move that saved the team $10 million against the salary cap. A month earlier, Bailey played in his only Super Bowl, a 43-8 dismantling against the Seattle Seahawks.
Bailey signed in the offseason with the New Orleans Saints, but he was cut before the season began. He also had tryouts with the Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens but didn’t sign with either team.
Reale also told Schefter that Bailey drew interest from two playoff contenders, but that wasn’t enough to have him return to the playing field.
Bailey was the seventh pick in the 1999 draft by the Washington Redskins. He was traded to the Broncos in 2004 for running back Clinton Portis and a second-round pick. Bailey was an All-Pro five times with the Broncos and chosen to the NFL’s All-Decade team in the 2000s.
He finishes with 52 career interceptions, including 10 in the 2006 season. In January 2006, in an AFC Divisional playoff game, Bailey intercepted New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and returned the ball 100 yards down the sideline.
He was caught a yard short of a touchdown, but it turned the game in the Broncos’ direction. It was the Broncos’ first playoff win since winning the Super Bowl in January 1999. But the next week, the Broncos lost at home to the Pittsburgh Steelers, denying Bailey a trip to the Super Bowl that he would have to wait eight more years to reach.
The next stop for Bailey will be the Pro Football hall of Fame in Canton, OH. He will be eligible for induction in 2019, a class that could also include Tony Gonzalez and Ed Reed.