When the Buccaneers kick off this Saturday against the Carolina Panthers, Buccaneers veteran cornerback Ronde Barber will have tied Derrick Brooks for playing the most games in the teams franchise history with 224. Barber has played in 223 games for the Buccaneers thus far, a stat that head coach Raheem Morris finds impressive.
“That is unbelievable,” Morris said. “Way before [this] Saturday he would have already had a significant role [in] maybe one of the premiere plays that we all remember in the Buccaneer history. I am talking about the interception in Philly in 2002 and really sealing that game away to send us to the Super Bowl. In order to go out there and seal some victories, maybe Derrick (Brooks) stealing the moment getting the interception in the Super Bowl [excuse me] Dwight Smith. The case being said you know Ronde (Barber) without a doubt in Buccaneer history is one of the greatest. I am not sure arguable if not in the NFL the history of the game.”
In next week’s game against the Falcons, the 36-year old cornerback will be tied with Derrick Brooks, Kevin Carter, and London Fletcher for having the most consecutive games played in the NFL since the 1970 merger. According to Coach Morris, Barber is a key player on this Buccaneer team.
“He is certainly one of those guys,” Morris said. “He is the ironman. [He is] our Cal Ripken, Jr. so to speak. He has been able to go out there and do significant parts in his play and at corner that is pretty special.”
It comes to no surprise to the Buccaneer head coach that his cornerback has lasted so many years in a tough league such as the NFL. Barber leads the league with the most consecutive games started at 197. He takes care of his body and has dedication. Both of which are important when playing at a position that is hard on the body such as cornerback.
“Ronde (Barber) is one of those guys that take care of his body,” Morris said. “He eats the right things. He does the right things. He practices the correct way. He doesn’t even want to miss practice. He is just one of those types of guys. He wants to go out there and go through his deal. Go through his array of stretches. [In] the off season he has a plan [and] he sticks to it. [In] the off season he doesn’t run laterally he runs straight. He doesn’t make a cut until TA days. Once you start OTA days he starts to make cuts. He starts to get his knees right. He starts to get everything right how his body is supposed to feel. He gets ready for that mental grind. You know its mentality before there is reality. There is no bigger person that sets that bar other than Ronde Barber.”
The 5-foot-10, 184-pound player was not aware of his making history this coming Saturday. According to his head coach, that is due to the fact of Barber being more focused on team goals other than personal ones.
“He is more interested this year in figuring out how to get wins,” Morris said. “I had no idea either until you just told me that because we are not keeping up with that right now. Right now we are about focusing about getting better and focusing on how to finish these last two games and to increase our status. So when the time comes again [we] can compete for a championship.”
Barber, who is in his 15th NFL season (all with Tampa Bay), has recorded a career total 1,332 tackles ranking him second in team history next to Derrick Brooks (2,198). He has 27 sacks and one safety. He also has 43 interceptions, fourteen touchdowns (including post season), and 15 forced fumbles with 12 fumble recoveries. If he wants to come back and play next season, Morris is all for it.
“If Ronde (Barber) wants to play we are going to find a way for him to come back,” Morris said. “[I] put a lot of pressure on Mark (Dominik) when I say that, but good. If you guys are treating him like you were treating him in ’07 when I got back or ’08 whatever year that was I can see us even having these conversations. But if he has the ability to play and we can work out a deal I am sure we will do those things. He is just one of those types of guys. That’s something I don’t have to hide. It is a nice feeling too. He told me that I should be the first person to tell him he can’t play. And when I tell him that he said he will walk away. It is what it is and I am not prepared to tell him that yet because I am actually finding more roles for him to do.”