Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber made a guest appearance on Tuesday's edition of Buccaneers Total Access heard on 620 WDAE. Barber revealed that the team's struggles this year started in the offseason. The 13-year pro talked about what the Bucs can do to correct those issues next time around and how important the offseason is to a team's performance during the regular season.
"Kurtis Shultz, who is our strength coach, and [assistant strength coach] Chris Keenan are two guys that we work with," Barber said. "I've talked to [Shultz] about this at length, and the best thing we can do is have guys here. I remember when Warren [Sapp] was doing an interview about training in the offseason and he was like, ‘Why would you want to leave and go anywhere else to train other than here in Tampa because the weather's perfect?' It's not like you're up north where if you're at your facility you're dealing with snow and inclement weather. You've got everything you need here in Tampa, so I'd look at it that way. We need to have our young guys here so we can all train together and we can build that nucleus. That's where you build it. You don't build it in training camp and mini-camps and all that stuff. Those are only a couple of days. You build it in the offseason when guys are together really grinding through the process. We need to find a way to increase our participation and I know Raheem [Morris] has mentioned that. He mentioned it at the very beginning of this football season and I'm sure he'll mention it more than once at the end [of the season]."
Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris plans to make changes in the offseason that will set the team up to be more successful next year, according to Barber.
"You generally get what you put into something and if you put a lot into it you should expect a lot out of it," said Barber. "We need to be able to put more into our offseason program than we did this past season if we're going to be successful. [Raheem] made a great reference a couple of weeks ago, preparing ourselves for the end of the year because we were essentially out of the playoffs. He said, ‘The definition of insanity is basically doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result and if you go into this offseason thinking that what we did in this past offseason was good enough, then we're going to be a 2-12 team again at this point in the year.' That's not what any of us want so we've got to try to find a way to get better at that and that's where it's going to start for us. It's going to start in March or April, whenever [coach Shultz] sets his program up, and we need a lot of guys there. We need to find a way to become a team as soon as possible in the offseason."
Barber, 34, gave his support to head coach Raheem Morris and said the team continues to play hard for him despite the tough season they have endured. Barber particularly likes that Morris has stayed the same person through all the adversity he has faced.
"I think Raheem's done a great job all year long and I've said this so many times," said Barber. "[Raheem] just stays consistent. Nothing about him has changed probably before he took the job. Obviously he's saddled with some more responsibilities and he took on even more responsibilities four weeks ago when he started calling our defense, but he hasn't changed. His message is sound. I think everybody buys into it and he's a likeable guy. He's the kind of guy that you wouldn't mind spending time with and going to war with because you know what you're getting out of him. He's not trying to fool you and he's not trying to saddle you with a bunch of innuendo. He tells you exactly what he wants out of you every single day and I think guys appreciate that. That, coupled with the fact that everybody on our team knows everything that we've been though this year with the coordinators and the turnover as far as personnel, and they know that they're fighting for the guy. He was a very likable guy before he was head coach and that hasn't changed at all since he's become the head coach so I think that's as good a reason as any why guys are playing for him."
Barber said that the team's success in the future also starts with the maturation of the young players on the roster. The five-time Pro Bowler plans to come back next season to lead the team's inexperienced players and to help Morris right the ship.
"It's nearly impossible to stay on top in this league for year after year," said Barber. "How Indianapolis and New England have done it consistently is beyond me. They've got personnel down to a science somehow because they turn over players and you don't even know it. We turn over as many players as we did and we suffer the consequences just in experience. There are guys on this football team that are going to be stars in this league and not just on defense. I think we're seeing as many on offense now as we've ever seen, and I think that's a good thing. This town deserves some superstars and they're in the wings. They're waiting to come out and I think some of the things we've put on film this year will help them be those guys next year. These young guys will learn how to be professionals and that this is not just a game that we come out to play, even though it is. You shouldn't take it as life and death, but [there is a] business [part] of it. This is what we do for a living. All young guys around the league need to know what it's about. This is our job, this is what we get paid to do, and this is how we feed our families. When they understand that, they're in for a lot more fun because we will be winning a lot more."
Barber understands the parity of the league after going through up and down seasons during his career and he thinks that the team may only be a few players away from being able to compete again in 2010. Besides acquiring a few players in free agency and the draft, it's also just a matter of getting the players they already have more game experience, according to Barber.
"Every year you are a couple [players away] because there is so much turnover every year," said Barber. "I think what we are more than players away is just some more experience away. We have so many young guys, guys that have only been playing for 3-4 years or less and are playing for the first time. We're asking a lot out of [the young players] and it didn't really materialize as well as it should have this year. I think we're more like maybe two or three players away, but the guys that are here and the guys that we're counting on just have to play better. We have to be able to count on them a little bit better and [they have to] make plays for us. It's not like we need to overhaul our whole team. That's never the way that you find success by just getting a bunch of new players. You've just got to get the players that you have to play better. We've done that over the years and that's how we built our team from '96, '97, '98, and '99. Those young guys turned into veteran guys and we turned into a really good football team, so that needs to happen for us really quickly if we're going to have a good 2010 season."
The Bucs want to build a solid football team that can compete every year, and Barber feels the best way to do that is by making great pickups in free agency along with having a good draft. Barber isn't talking about signing high-priced free agents in March. He thinks the free agent pickups the team makes throughout the season are the most important. Players like Donald Penn, Tim Crowder, Corey Lynch, and Chris Pressley fall under that category and are key components to creating a team's depth.
"I think the best way that you build a roster is through the bottom, by the free agents and the guys that you pick up off the street," said Barber. "Even guys that during the year are somebody else's castoff that you think might fit on your team you bring in and all the sudden they're a player for you. I think that's the meat and potatoes of your football team. There are only so many first and second round can't miss guys out there [in the draft] and who knows if you ever get them. If you get the chance to draft this kid out of Nebraska, this Suh kid, I think you're pretty well set at your under tackle position. I think he's a can't miss prospect, but how many guys every year get drafted in the first and second round and don't contribute to their football team. You've got to find them elsewhere and find the guys that are hungry, that maybe nobody else wants, and give them a chance. That's how you build good football teams."