Ronde Barber is still in the process of deciding his NFL future and has yet to even set a timetable on if he returns. The Buccaneers' organization is allowing the veteran to take all the needs, which is absolutely the right decision.
Some Buccaneers fans have never forgiven the organization for the parting of ways with some of Tampa Bay’s most beloved Bucs. Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn, and John Lynch all come to mind as terrible public relations nightmares for Bucs the over the last 10 years. Even allowing Warren Sapp to sign with Oakland (where he had another 10 sack season) rubbed some the wrong way.
To the Glazer family’s credit, the Buccaneers are absolutely doing the right thing in allowing veteran cornerback Ronde Barber to decide when it is time to hang up his future bronzed Hall of Fame cleats.
Barber was interviewed by the NFL Network earlier this week and told the network the decision on whether he returns is still up in the air.
“I have not made a decision yet,'' Barber said. "They've allowed me to not rush the decision so I'm not going to rush it.
“(It will) probably (be) a gut feeling at the end. And that's what it was last year. We'll see.”
Barber would be embarking on his 18th season if he returns, which is a remarkable feat considering the average NFL career is less than four years. To put things in perspective, fellow safety Mark Barron was just seven years old when Barber began his Tampa Bay career. While Barron was learning his second grade multiplication tables, Barber was in defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s meeting room trying to learn the nuances of the Cover 2 defense.
Barber isn’t the best cornerback from a pure talent point in the NFL, or even in team history for that matter. But his overall game rivals and exceeds most who have ever stepped onto a football field.
For much of his playing career Barber was never just strictly a cover cornerback, although he was a solid one for a number of seasons. But Kiffin, Raheem Morris and now Greg Schiano have been able to identify Barber’s ability to play a number of roles through the years, and utilized him in a number of ways – from a nickel corner to a hybrid linebacker and a strong safety coming up in the box to stop the run. While his athletic ability helped him succeed in those situations, his above average football I.Q. has been even more of a benefit.
Barber’s 92-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Eagles that sent the Buccaneers to the Super Bowl was a perfect example of his intelligence. While it was an athletic play, the fact that Barber identified the play from his film study, then was able to process it and bait Donovan McNabb into the throw, all in a matter seconds shows the smarts and uncanny ability few in the NFL have.
Barber’s meticulous note taking and study habits are legendary. Numerous players over the years have told PewterReport.com that no one is more intense and dedicated in watching film, paying attention in meetings and adhering to details in practice like Barber has been over his career. Fellow safety Ahmad Black told PewterReport.com Insiders at a recent gathering that Barber is like a coach in the building, at practice and even during games, noting at times Schiano would go to Barber in the heat of the battle to get his feedback and advice.
The former University of Virginia product’s leadership is also worthy of noting. While not a rah-rah get in your face guy, Barber commands a respect that is rarely seen in NFL locker rooms. When a player has a question, they go to Barber. When coaches have a question, they go to Barber. And when there is differences in the locker room, people go to Barber.
During the 2011 season a reporter and a player were having words and the volume got quite loud. Barber came over to the situation and kicked the media out of the locker room, telling us that open locker room was now over and to get out. The funny thing looking back on it now was none of the media present argued or even questioned the command. We just turned our recorders off and walked out. Barber also has the respect of the media.
Most certainly the Buccaneers would prefer that Barber makes the decision sooner rather than later, as knowing who will or won’t be here makes things easier from a planning and even drafting perspective. But 17 years in the league, along with 1,256 tackles, 47 interceptions, 28 sacks and eight touchdowns has earned Barber the right to take as much times he wants.
The organization’s loyalty to Barber is a rare thing in today’s world of professional sports, but the loyalty is mutual as Barber also noted in the interview that he has had opportunities to play for other teams over the last three years, saying “we've (himself and Tampa Bay) had an understanding (that if I come back again) that I would always be back in Tampa.”
While more talented Buccaneers players have graced the field at the old Tampa Stadium and Raymond James Stadium, none have ever been more valuable than Barber to the franchise.
Hats off to the Glazers, Mark Dominik, and Schiano for letting No. 20 make the call. In this situation it is absolutely the right thing to do.
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