Bailey's play didn't just speak for itself; it shouted from the rooftops. At Georgia he became one of the finest two-way players of the two-platoon era, lining up regularly at wideout. In 1998, his third and final season in Athens, he was on the field for 957 plays—offense, defense and special teams combined—and put up impressive numbers: 47 catches for 744 yards and five touchdowns, 16 carries for 84 yards, 52 tackles, three interceptions, a 21.8-yard average on kickoff returns and a 12.3 on punt returns.
Bailey considers himself "a receiver with very good defensive back skills," and he pestered Turner for the chance to play wideout. Turner, however, played Bailey sparingly on offense in four games, noting that his progress as a cornerback had been hampered by his do-everything role with the Bulldogs. Robiskie, who replaced Turner with three games left in the regular season, used Bailey amply in the last game of the year, against the Arizona Cardinals, and Bailey responded with a tantalizing demonstration of his all-around skills, catching two passes for 54 yards, intercepting a pass, making five solo tackles, batting away four passes and, for good measure, scoring on a seven-yard touchdown run.
Alas, Schottenheimer has no interest in a multitasking All-Pro cornerback. "Champ can play offense," the coach says, "when he's the best cornerback in the NFL."
"I respect that," says Bailey, "but then I ask myself, Who is the best cornerback in the NFL? There will come a time when I'll demand a chance, but not now. Not yet."
Hearing that, you can't help but think that Bailey's inner Prime Time is really taking hold. He and Sanders spoke by phone earlier this month, and not surprisingly, Sanders went on and on about his blissful life as a retiree. Bailey gave way to the veteran once more and let Deion rant. "It was all about how much he likes just chillin'," said Bailey, "but I think he'll miss it all once the games start."
As for those locker room games, most of the checkers regulars—Sanders, Centers and Drakeford included—are no longer with the team. Still, the games will likely begin anew, and in Sanders's absence, says Barber, the man to beat is Bailey.
Both off and on the field.