NFL

Barber eager to fill new role with Buccaneers

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Associated Press
7/27/2012 6:28:56 PM
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TAMPA, Fla. -- At 37 and entering his 16th NFL season, Ronde Barber is embracing the challenge of learning a new position with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

A five-time Pro Bowl cornerback who's making the transition to safety in first-year coach Greg Schiano's system, Barber not only is receptive to the move but excited about the team's prospects of rebounding from a 4-12 finish that included 10 consecutive losses to end last season.

"It's not very often you get not only to play 16 years, but to find new challenges in your 16th year and new opportunities to prove yourself," Barber said. "I'm very comfortable not being status quo and not doing what I've always done. ... There's no apprehension at all."

Schiano was lured away from Rutgers to replace the fired Raheem Morris in January. He's bolstered one of the league's youngest rosters with the addition of veterans Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks and Eric Wright and re-signed Barber to a one-year deal with expectations that the twin brother of former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber can continue to perform at a high level.

The franchise career interceptions leader also is being counted on to be a mentor for rookie safety Mark Barron, the seventh overall pick in this year's draft.

With 43 interceptions and 27 sacks, Barber is the only player in NFL history with at least 40 career picks and 25 sacks. His stretch of 224 consecutive games played is tied with former teammate Derrick Brooks, Kevin Carter and London Fletcher for the second-longest streak for a defensive player since 1970.

In addition, Barber's string of 199 consecutive starts are the most among active players.

Barron, signed to a four-year contract that includes a signing bonus of about $8.9 million, is looking forward to learning from Barber, the only player remaining on the roster from Tampa Bay's Super Bowl victory following the 2002 season. The Bucs have not won a playoff game since.

"There's pretty much nothing I can't ask him," the rookie out of Alabama said following the team's first training camp workout on Friday. "He's been in the league 16 years, he pretty much knows everything about the game. That's a great benefit to me in trying to become the player I want to be."

Barber entered the league as a third-round draft pick under then-Bucs coach Tony Dungy. He's remained with the Bucs through three head-coaching changes, helping Jon Gruden win the club's only Super Bowl title and providing leadership on and off the field since Morris and general manager Mark Dominik launched a rebuilding project in 2009.

Barber became an unrestricted free agent following last season. He re-signed for $3 million and has bought into Schiano's program.

"He's done a really good job of presenting his message and his clear vision of what he wants out of this football team," said Barber, who's scored 11 career touchdowns on interception and fumble returns.

"And every coach does that. He's no different than Tony, Jon or Rah, in that regard. He's going to demand a lot of us. He's a very concise speaker. There's no confusion about what he expects. Every hour, every minute of the day is scripted and calculated. And that's good for this team. Our expectations are not to be a rebuilding team with a new first-year head coach. He's coming in here to win. And that's good. I personally appreciate that philosophy."

Barber surpassed Brooks for the franchise record in games played in the 2011 season finale at Atlanta. He's started every game at cornerback for the Bucs since Week 10 of 1999, and has been a key component on defences that have finished in the top 10 statistically in 11 of his 15 seasons.

The Bucs yielded a league-high and franchise-record 494 points and finished 30th among 32 teams in total defence last season, a year Barber and his teammates are eager to put behind them.

"There's so many reasons we slid last year," said Barber, who led the team with three interceptions and reiterated he has no issues with making the move to safety under the new coaching staff.

"I just want to play and win," he said.

Barber and Talib celebrate (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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