Dion Bailey can look in his cellphone and go through a list of text messages from Kam Chancellor, all from the Pro Bowl safety providing encouragement to a second-year player who was holding down a job that he once had locked down. Now with the New York Jets, Bailey still has those text messages from Chancellor and they are helping him get on the field with his new team.
A former undrafted rookie free agent signed by the Seattle Seahawks in 2014, Bailey was a part of the ‘Legion of Boom’ backend that was arguably the league’s top secondary over the past couple of seasons. This past summer with Chancellor engaged in a holdout, Bailey stepped into a more prominent role in Seattle.
The text messages and phone calls from this summer touched on topics such as eye discipline, how to feel certain things in terms of his instincts and reading a play as well as the simple message to not over-think when it comes to scheme and technique.
The irony is that they came from Chancellor (who was in the midst of his much publicized holdout) for a young player who was taking his job. In essence, Chancellor was risking his own job by helping Bailey with advice and insight.
Yet it would be Bailey who was on the way out when Chancellor’s holdout ended, the Seahawks cutting him before their Week 3 game.
“I know the type of person Kam is. He genuinely wants to see others succeed, not an ounce of greed in him. It’s very rare for someone with his position; he’s a bona fide superstar in the NFL right now. Most guys fear younger guys and see someone who is going to push them out. He’s the complete opposite of them, that’s why I respect him,” Bailey told Metro.
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“I talk to him and a couple other teammates, still in communication with them. A lot of those guys I work out with in the offseason.
“As soon as they found out about the situation with me and Kam, they tried to lift my spirit, tell me that I’ll get picked up by somebody – ‘Don’t worry about it, you won’t be without a job for long.’ It was nice that they will still support me.”
The Seahawks released him on Saturday a couple of weeks ago and the Jets claimed him off waivers that following Monday, notifying him in the early afternoon. He had six hours to get his life together and pack, heading off to New York in a few short hours to join his new team.
Oh, and find his passport.
“I was like ‘Passport? I don’t need a passport, that’s an offseason thing.’ And [my agent] was like ‘They’re playing in London.’ I had to scramble for one,” Bailey said.
It was here that the Bailey to the Jets story almost falls apart.
He thought his mother had his passport and went tearing through his apartment, desperately looking for it. Keep in mind that it was Monday afternoon and the Jets were leaving for their Week 4 game against the Miami Dolphins in London. He had to have a suitcase to board that flight.
No passport and the possibility existed that the Jets could cut him and bring on board another safety. The NFL can be brutal and Bailey knew that. If he couldn’t turn it around and find one, then Bailey would have to notify the Jets that he wouldn’t be able to play for them on Sunday. Might as well kiss the opportunity in front of him goodbye.
Eventually he found the passport in another suitcase. He was on his way, his life in a couple suitcases, just a couple hours later. Newark International Airport, here he comes.
He flew out to the Jets arriving via a red eye flight at 5:30 A.M. on Tuesday morning. He got the game plan and met with the coaches a couple hours later. He would practice Wednesday and Thursday, a bit sleep-deprived as his body adjusted to East Coast time.
Most of his sleep those first 72 hours was found on his flight to New York and then to London.
The hope now is that after the bye week, Bailey will be more up to speed. His upside is tremendous, especially since he played linebacker and some safety in college at USC but really doesn’t have too much experience in the secondary. He had some rough patches with the Seahawks but two weeks ago in his Jets debut he had four tackles and looked very solid.
Bailey talks about his transition, how playing safety is still very new to him. How he hopes to continue the transition and help his new team. With more time, he says, he can settle in to a new team and a new position.
“He’ll be alright,” said cornerback Dee Milliner in the locker adjacent to Bailey.
“He’ll be alright, yes.”