Awards and notoriety for NFL football players come and go. Some are appreciated, some are barely noticed, but one in particular seems to always be coveted by all who have put on a uniform.
Being named a team captain is one of the highest honors a player receivers, and this season QB Josh Freeman, C Jeff Faine, CB Ronde Barber, LB Quincy Black and special teams ace Adam Hayward received that designation by their peers.
Even after too many selections to remember, Tampa Bay's longtime fixture in the defensive backfield, Ronde Barber, is still honored to be recognized by his teammates.
“I really have no idea how many years it has been (years as captain) but (it has been) since John Lynch left,” Barber said. “Leadership is natural. You don’t really get appointed it, you just kind of assume (the role). I’m not an overly vocal-type leader, but I think a lot of people follow my example, and it is a big honor.”
When the Pro Bowler thought back to 1997 when he entered the league, it was easy for him to remember who he saw as Tampa Bay’s leader in the locker room and on the playing field.
“It was [linebacker] Hardy [Nickerson],” Barber said. “It was his tempo. It was the way he approached his job. It was unbelievable and good for me to see that.
“Again, I’m not that boisterous in my leadership. But I think people see how I do my job here and appreciate that.”
For the fourth year in a row center Jeff Faine was selected as one of two offensive captains. Faine doesn’t take the honor lightly.
“It's the highest honor (in my opinion) to be looked at and voted by your teammates,” Faine said. “It's something I don’t take lightly. It's a great responsibility to make sure you always do the right things and lead by example. It’s a very humbling experience and a true honor.”
Tampa Bay’s other offensive captain was third-year quarterback Josh Freeman. Freeman was unavailable for comment but offensive tackle Donald Penn was more than happy to share his thoughts on the leadership he has seen from Freeman over the last two seasons.
“When people start getting nervous at the end of a game with our backs against the wall, I think that's when his greatest leadership comes out,” Penn said. “He's always able to calm everybody down, by us seeing how calm he is. That's one of the big reasons he was selected.
“He really can take control of a huddle when we're behind and stuff is on the line. A lot people fold (under the pressure) but he is always there making sure no one on the offense folds.”
Two new captains emerged this season as both Quincy Black and Adam Hayward were thrust into that leadership role by the 53-man roster.
Hayward was selected special teams captain and admitted he was a little surprised.
“Yes, definitely, because you never know what is going to happen,” Hayward said. “It's one of those things where you know you have done your role for so long [and] you kind of get an understanding you've been around here long enough. Even before that I always approached things as a leader and captain and dealing with everybody as far as special teams.
“It's just an honor to know that I have been here for a while doing things right. The players and coaches respect me and know that I'm a good enough athlete to be considered a captain.”
Starting Sam linebacker Quincy Black was equally surprised by his first nomination, but relishes the trust his teammates have placed in him for the 2011 season.
“It definitely is an honor,” Black said. “When guys on your team, guys in your locker, they think highly enough of you as a guy that's going to represent the defense, it means a lot, honestly. There's hardly an honor higher.
“You think about the Pro Bowl, that's a league thing, sometimes a popularity contest or just based on reputation. Those aren’t guys you work with everyday. When someone you work with everyday thinks highly enough of you to vote on you, then that is awesome.”