ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Champ Bailey has played in just three games this season, and finished just one.
In Week 7, he aggravated the preseason foot injury that has plagued him all season long, and when he returned to the field again in Week 13, he notched four tackles before leaving the game.
The good news is that the lack of playing time has him as fresh as possible entering Week 16 against the Houston Texans.
"My fingers aren't banged up like they normally are this time of year. My shoulders don't feel as bad," Bailey said after Thursday's practice, in which he was a full participant. "Those are the only things that have gotten a breather. My legs are still my legs. I'm 35 (laughs), they feel as good as they're going to feel right now."
The lesson he learned from the Week 13 game against the Kansas City Chiefs was that he needs to be sure he's completely ready to return before he jumps back into game action.
"Physically, mentally, emotionally -- everything," Bailey said.
He feels ready this week.
"I feel good about what I can do," he continued. "I think now it's just being smart about how I go about doing it and making sure I don't have any setbacks and I don't wear myself down or anything like that. The good thing is I'm fresh, I'm ready to go. I've had some time off and I'm ready to go."
Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio said it was good to see Bailey back as a full participant in practice on Wednesday and Thursday, and the team knows his leadership and play on the field will be important down the stretch.
"We need him to help us," Del Rio said. "We think he can and it looks like he's a lot closer to being a role where he can do that for us."
Bailey has watched his teammates from the sideline in 11 games this season. And it hasn't been easy for the 12-time Pro Bowler.
"Regardless of how we're playing it's hard to watch," Bailey said. "But I do what I can to help these guys get prepared every week -- that's what I've been doing. I'll still do the same thing this week, except I'll be out there. I'm looking forward to getting out there and helping them while I'm on the field."
Bailey said his speed and quickness are still there, and his time on the practice field has helped him build to this point.
"I feel real confident in what I can do out there," he said, "so I'm ready to go."