NFC South: London Fletcher

Barber, Gonzalez defying age

November, 21, 2012
TAMPA, Fla. -- Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano has a reputation for being a hard-edged guy. Some of that’s probably deserved (see his defense when another team lines up in the victory formation), but sometimes Schiano shows another side to the media.

He’s been known to crack a one-liner or two. On Wednesday, Schiano even showed a sentimental side when he talked about Tampa Bay safety Ronde Barber and Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez.

“It’s amazing, we have one on our team and they have one on their team,’’ Schiano said. “It’s pretty neat that they are playing each other this weekend.

We all know that Barber and Gonzalez are veteran guys that still are producing at a high level. But until Schiano made the comment, I’d never really thought about what Barber and Gonzalez are doing in strictly numerical terms.

Schiano’s comment prompted me to look around the league at veterans. I’m not counting kickers, punters and long-snappers. I’m not counting guys like Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis, who is out with an injury and I’m not counting part-time role players, like Green Bay receiver Donald Driver. And I’m not counting Pittsburgh quarterback Charlie Batch, who hasn't been starting, but appears headed for playing time due to injuries.

I’m only counting position players that have been starting all or most of this season and my research shows that Barber is the oldest player in that category. He’s 37 and is two months older than Washington linebacker London Fletcher, who currently is dealing with an injury. Green Bay center Jeff Saturday, also 37, is No. 3 and Denver linebacker Keith Brooking, who turned 37 three weeks ago, is No. 4.

Gonzalez, who will turn 37 in February, is No. 5.

“When you look at what Tony does, he is really a fine player,’’ Schiano said. “You have to account for him. At that age, that is something.’’

NFC South afternoon update

November, 20, 2012
It’s been a pretty quiet day in the NFC South. That’s not uncommon because Tuesday generally is a day with no practices and a day off for players. But we’ve got a few odds and ends worth noting.
  • Tampa Bay safety Ronde Barber has the longest active streak of games started at 209. Washington linebacker London Fletcher (193) is the next guy on the list and his streak may end due to an injury. It’s the same story for Detroit center Jeff Backus, who is third with 186 consecutive starts. Barber is tied with Fletcher for the most consecutive games played in (234) and Barber could have sole possession of that if Fletcher sits out.
  • The Buccaneers announced that cornerback Anthony Gaitor, who was on injured reserve with the eligible-to-return designation will begin practicing Wednesday. Gaitor’s return could give the Bucs some much-needed depth because starter Eric Wright has been dealing with an Achilles tendon injury.
  • With center/guard Joe Hawley suspended for four games after violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, the Falcons filled his roster spot by signing guard Harland Gunn. An undrafted free agent this year, Gunn first was signed by the Dallas Cowboys and then spent time on the New Orleans practice squad.
  • The Saints are dealing with a similar situation on their offensive line with right tackles Zach Strief and Charles Brown both dealing with injuries. As a result of that, the Saints have signed offensive lineman William Robinson, who was on the New Orleans practice squad last year.

Ronde Barber may move to No. 1

September, 5, 2011
Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber has a chance to add another line to an already-lengthy résumé.

With the status of Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning uncertain after offseason neck surgery, Barber has a chance to take over the NFL lead when it comes to longest active regular-season starting streaks. Manning has started 208 consecutive games, but it’s unclear if he’ll be able to play in the opener.

If he doesn’t, Barber will move into the top spot. Barber has 183 consecutive starts. He holds a healthy lead over Washington linebacker London Fletcher, who is third with 163 consecutive starts.

There are a couple of other NFC South players in the top 10. Atlanta center Todd McClure is tied for No. 7 with 144 consecutive starts. But that streak is expected to come to an end. Coach Mike Smith already has said McClure isn’t expected to play in the opener due to a knee injury.

Center Olin Kreutz, who just signed with the New Orleans Saints, is No. 9 on the list with 134 consecutive starts.