Cornerback Ronde Barber, who will be returning to Tampa Bay for his team-record 15th season, is concerned that the young Buccaneers will have their development stymied by an NFL lockout.
Fresh from signing a one-year deal to return to Tampa Bay for a 15th season, cornerback Ronde Barber spent Thursday at One Buccaneer Place watching some film with defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake for what could be the last time in weeks or even months as the NFL owners and NFL Players Association try to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement through mediation.
“I was actually over there [on Thursday] using the last 12 hours I had while I could go in there,” Barber said. “Jimmy was watching some film, so I sat down and watched some film with him. It makes you start thinking about things that you want to do. I kind of resisted getting in that mode because we have a long, long process before 2011 materializes.”
Barber and Lake sat down after the Bucs’ 10-6 2010 campaign ended and concluded that the team’s all-time leading interceptor played better football last year than he did in 2009 when he recorded 93 tackles, seven pass breakups, two sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery, but did not record an interception for the first time since his rookie year in 1997. In 2010, Barber produced 102 tackles, nine tackles for loss, 16 pass breakups, three interceptions, one sack and one forced fumble.
The team offered Barber a one-year, $4 million deal, which he signed in February. In addition to the promise of accomplishing great things as a team on the rise in 2011, as Barber’s career winds down there are some individual goals he would like to accomplish. The two at the top of the list are becoming the first NFL player to record at least 40 interceptions and 30 sacks (Barber currently has 40 picks and 26 sacks), and break Derrick Brooks’ record for the most games played by a Buccaneer.
Brooks suited up for 224 contests in his 14-year career and Barber has played in 209. Should he remain healthy and play in all 16 games, Barber would play in 225 contests in Tampa Bay. By playing a 15th season as a Buccaneer, Barber will pass Brooks for the most seasons in played in Tampa Bay should the 2011 campaign begins in September and go for a full 16 contests.
“There are some out there,” Barber said. “I’m not going to say that I’m not looking forward to getting to them. But who knows? I’ve got to make my way through an offseason with some uncertainty in it with the labor agreement. Hopefully we get a chance to play 16 games. I think we will. Those guys are there for the taking if I can make it through a 15th year. If they happen, they happen. I’m too much into the offseason right now to even begin thinking about what 2011 is going to be on the football field.”
Barber told PewterReport.com that he should have already reached his goal of 30 career sacks. He finished the 2010 season with just one after notching two QB captures in 2009. Barber, who admits to missing five golden sack opportunities last year, needs four more to reach 30.
“I had plenty of sack opportunities,” Barber said. “We just have to get into the right type of situational football where we can call them. [Bucs head coach and defensive coordinator] Raheem [Morris] did a good job of calling them out of the blue. He’s somewhat of an unconventional play-caller. He can be by the book when he wants to, but he can also dial up stuff off a whim. My opportunities will be there. I just have to cash in on them. I can’t miss the lay-ups.
“Carson Palmer was a lay-up. That was something he hadn’t seen before. We drew that up just to help us in Week 4, and I came free and of course I missed it because it was too easy.”
Morris, Lake and the Bucs coaching staff spend the offseason devising ways to blitz Barber, hone the pass rush skills of defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, improve the blitz pick-ups of running back LeGarrette Blount and the accuracy of quarterback Josh Freeman. But with the NFL owners on the verge of locking out the players from coming to team headquarters and watching film, meeting with coaches, participating in the offseason conditioning program and attending on-field organized team activities (OTAs) unless a deal can be reached with the NFL Players Association through mediation.
Free agency was slated to begin at midnight on Saturday, March 5, but both sides have yet to come to terms on several divisive issues including revenue sharing, the length of the NFL season and player benefits among others. Barber is concerned that the development of such a young team like the Buccaneers may be stymied if there is a protracted length of time in which the players are locked out of One Buc Place.
“OTAs serve a purpose because you go into your mandatory mini-camp and training camp with your whole playbook in place,” Barber said. “I know there was a time when I first entered the league where we put in our defenses in the offseason and then go over them again from scratch in training camp. That process has completely changed. OTAs serve a different purpose, at least for this team. We put everything in during the OTAs and then when we get to camp we’re pretty much full and just tweak things here and there and adjust personnel accordingly. They have a purpose.
“They can run you ragged sometimes in the offseason, but they are worth it. It’s part of our job. I think the NFL is a better product because of it. Would I like to see guys work out less? Yeah. Starting in March and going all the way through to the end of January is a bit much. But the actual OTAs are very attractive and very necessary.”
Barber said that former rookies like McCoy, who is at the point of his recovery from a torn biceps on December 10 in Tampa Bay’s victory at Washington where he can resume lifting weights and getting stronger, need the offseason program in order to make a big leap as a second-year player.
“You can tell that he was starting to get it,” Barber said of McCoy, who finished the season with three sacks. “He’ll have this offseason to get in, watch some film and figure out how to take the next step. That’s one of the detriments of us being locked out – assuming we’re going to be locked out on Friday – is that those guys don’t have the opportunity to come in, sit down and evaluate themselves, evaluate and figure out schemes on film and find a way to get better. I know that helped me when I was younger. The longer we hold out on having the opportunity for them to do that the slower it is that they are going to develop.”
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