Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ronde Barber

TAMPA, Fla. -- It’s the season opener. It’s a matchup of division rivals. But Sunday’s game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers isn’t going to have a large audience.

Let’s turn to the map on 506sports.com, which shows which games will be broadcast in which markets. The FOX broadcast, which will feature Chris Myers and Ronde Barber, only will be shown in a limited portion of the country.

The game will be shown in most of Florida, all of the Carolinas, portions of Georgia (but not the Atlanta market) and New Orleans. That’s it.

The rest of the nation will get the game between San Francisco and Dallas. Back in the days of Steve Young and Troy Aikman, that would have made a lot of sense. But the rivalry between the 49ers and Cowboys isn’t what it once was.

The game between the Panthers and Bucs could end up being a good one, but only a small portion of the country will have access to it.
Now that Derrick Brooks is in, it’s time to start wondering about who will be the next player with Tampa Bay ties to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had a nice run with Warren Sapp and Brooks getting selected in back-to-back years. But it might be a while before they have some Tampa Bay company.

John Lynch is one candidate many Tampa Bay fans think belongs in the Hall of Fame. But Lynch already has come up short in two elections. Lynch has a very nice resume and might be able to slide in during a year when the competition isn’t stiff.

But let’s face reality here. Lynch might never get in. It’s difficult for safeties to get into the Hall of Fame. Lynch made a history as a hitter, and safeties are measured mostly by interception totals. Lynch might keep getting passed over.

Cornerback Ronde Barber probably has a better shot than Lynch. But Barber, who isn’t eligible for three more years, isn’t the sure first-ballot Hall of Famer many Buccaneers fans assume he is. Barber at least is in the conversation, but it might take some time for him to get in.

Barber might need the stars to align properly in a given year to get elected.

There also are a lot of Tampa Bay fans that believe fullback Mike Alstott belongs in the Hall of Fame. Um, that’s not going to happen. Alstott was a very nice player. But he didn’t have big stats, and fullbacks don’t make the Hall of Fame these days.

So who’s the next Buccaneer to head to the Hall of Fame? It could be Barber. If not, it could take another generation. Gerald McCoy could be a candidate if he turns in another eight or so seasons similar to the past two.
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In his 24-minute Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech, Derrick Brooks thanked dozens of people from every stage of his career.

There were plenty of emotional moments, but one stood out to me: when Brooks thanked the late Lee Roy Selmon, the first draft pick and the first Hall of Famer in the history of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“Lee Roy set the standard, and we’re just trying to walk the path he set for us," Brooks said.

Selmon was much more than a football player. He was elegant, classy and heavily involved in the Tampa Bay community long after his playing days were over. Selmon left this world too soon, and he left a void in Tampa Bay.

But now that void is being filled. Brooks is as close to Selmon as you can get. Of course, Brooks was a tremendous football player. But, like Selmon, Brooks is so much more. Brooks now is the biggest icon in the Tampa Bay region, but he wouldn’t like hearing that. That’s because Brooks is especially humble.

That was best demonstrated when Brooks asked all his Buccaneers teammates who made the trip to Canton, Ohio, to stand and be recognized.

“Please stand up and let me bow and salute you guys," Brooks said.

Brooks had plenty of help. But, perhaps more than anyone, Brooks was responsible for turning around a dismal franchise.

“The Tampa Bay Buccaneers [were] the team that invented losing," said ESPN’s Chris Berman, who served as the master of ceremonies.

Brooks was drafted in 1995 by a team that hadn’t had a winning season since 1982. Joining forces with coach Tony Dungy and teammates such as Warren Sapp, Hardy Nickerson, John Lynch and Ronde Barber, Brooks ushered in the most successful era in franchise history. The Bucs became regular playoff contenders and, eventually, Super Bowl champions.

Brooks last played in 2008, but he’s more visible than ever. Brooks founded a high school in Tampa, does all sorts of charity work and works as the president of the Tampa Bay Storm.

“As a servant leader, I just want to do the best I can to make something better when I come into touch with it," Brooks said.

Brooks always has made the things he comes into contact with better. Selmon started that path, but now it’s Brooks’ turn to follow in the footsteps.
Joe JureviciusREUTERS/Jason Cohn 
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This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in team history. In the next two days we’ll feature: Derrick Brooks’ interception return for a touchdown in Super Bowl XXXVII, and Ronde Barber’s interception return for a touchdown in the 2002 NFC Championship Game. Please vote for your choice as the Buccaneers’ most memorable play.

Score: Buccaneers 27, Eagles 10
Date: Jan. 19, 2003 Site: Veteran’s Stadium

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In the days leading up to the NFC Championship Game it looked like Tampa Bay receiver Joe Jurevicius might not play. His son had been born prematurely and was critically ill (he died two months later). Jurevicius did not practice that week. But at the last minute, he decided to make the trip.

This was the last game ever played by the Eagles at Veteran’s Stadium, and Philadelphia held a four-game winning streak, including a pair of playoff victories, against the Buccaneers. Jurevicius would make only one catch that day, but it ended up being one of the most emotional and memorable in franchise history.

Late in the first quarter, Jurevicius ran a crossing route and got ahead of linebacker Barry Gardner. He caught Brad Johnson’s pass in stride. Jurevicius was never known for his speed and he seemed to be running forever. He was finally stopped just short of the goal line, but he set up a short touchdown run by Mike Alstott.

“When you put ... a 96-yard touchdown drive together against this defense in Veterans Stadium," Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden said at the time, "you're kind of like the Lone Ranger, like you're the only person that's done it."

The catch by Jurevicius gave the Bucs an emotional lift and helped them get on a path that led to their first Super Bowl.
Ronde BarberAP Photo/Chris Gardner 
» VOTE HERE » NFC Plays: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in team history. In the next two days we’ll feature: Derrick Brooks’ interception return for a touchdown in Super Bowl XXXVII, and the 71-yard catch by Joe Jurevicius in the 2003 NFC Championship Game. Please vote for your choice as the Buccaneers’ most memorable play.

Score: Buccaneers 27, Eagles 10
Date: Jan. 19, 2003 Site: Veterans Stadium

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In the last football game ever played at Veterans Stadium, Ronde Barber came up with one of the biggest plays in franchise history. His 92-yard interception return for a touchdown sealed a victory that put the Buccaneers into the first Super Bowl in franchise history.

The play came with the Bucs holding a 20-10 lead, but Philadelphia was driving. The Eagles had a first-and-goal at the Tampa Bay 10-yard line. That’s when Barber crowded the line of scrimmage to fake a blitz. He then dropped into coverage against the slot receiver and came up with the interception.

"[Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb] fell for it," Barber told the Tampa Bay Times in 2011. “I don't know why. Maybe it was because he just had a great play and thought I was going to blitz. But either way, he believed I was coming and threw it right to me."

The play came with 3 minutes and 12 seconds remaining and put an end to a string of dominance by Philadelphia. The Eagles had won the previous four meetings between the two teams, including playoff losses in 2001 and 2002, the second one prompting the firing of coach Tony Dungy.

But Barber’s play ended all that and it left Veterans Stadium, one of the NFL’s most raucous venues, silent in its final moments.
Derrick BrooksUSA TODAY Sports 
» VOTE HERE » NFC Plays: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history. In the next two days, we’ll feature Ronde Barber’s interception return for a touchdown in the NFC Championship Game and the 71-yard catch by Joe Jurevicius in the same game. Please vote for your choice as the Buccaneers’ most memorable play.

Score: Buccaneers 48, Raiders 21
Date: Jan. 26, 2003 Site: Qualcomm Stadium

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Description: The Bucs were already in good shape, holding a 34-21 fourth-quarter lead. But that’s when the signature play of this game came. Derrick Brooks picked off a Rich Gannon pass and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown that sealed the victory.

This play was about more than a simple interception return. It symbolized what the Bucs were all about. Brooks was the best player on a great defense, and that automatically made this play one of the most memorable in franchise history. Brooks had many other great plays in a Hall of Fame career, but this is the one most fans remember best because it came on the biggest of stages.

This game had a unique backstory. Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden had previously coached the Raiders and knew Oakland’s playbook and tendencies well. He spent the week leading into the Super Bowl playing the scout-team quarterback. That helped prepare the Bucs for everything Oakland threw at them.

The Bucs finished the game with five interceptions, but none was more symbolic than Brooks'.
At NFL Nation, we're doing a special project that's scheduled for July.

The writers for all 32 teams are putting together a list of the most memorable plays in franchise history and, then, we'll ask readers to vote on the winner for each team. I've surveyed readers on Twitter and many of the responses are what I expected.

Derrick Brooks' interception in the Super Bowl and Ronde Barber's interception in the NFC Championship Game are on virtually every list. But we're going to present you with three memorable moments to vote on.

That third spot is where I'm seeing a lot of differing opinions. Joe Jurevicius' tip and catch against the Philadelphia Eagles is getting plenty of attention. But so is Matt Bryant's 62-yard field goal. So is Warren Sapp's sack of Steve Young and Mike Alstott's pinball run through the Cleveland Browns defense.

I'm sure there are some other memorable Tampa Bay Buccaneers plays that haven't been mentioned. And I'm sure some of you have plays that you would rank ahead of the ones by Barber and Brooks.

I'd like to hear as many opinions as possible before narrowing the list. Hit me on Twitter using #NFLNBuccaneersTopPlays or make your case in the comments section attached to this post.
The other day, I wrote about future candidates for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Ring of Honor.

We talked about Doug Williams, Ricky Bell, Mike Alstott, John Lynch, Monte Kiffin, Tony Dungy, James Wilder and Ronde Barber. I think all of them should get into the Ring of Honor at some point.

But they may have to take a spot in line. With the death Wednesday of owner Malcolm Glazer, there's another obvious candidate.

Glazer deserves a spot in the Ring of Honor as soon as possible. Although he wasn't always popular with fans, Glazer did more for this franchise than anyone.

When he paid a then-record $192 million for the Bucs in 1995, Glazer was taking over a franchise that was a laughingstock. The Bucs had been bad for most of their existence and there was even talk about the team moving out of Tampa Bay.

Glazer fought a hard battle to get taxpayers to fund a new, state-of-the-art stadium that kept the Bucs in town. He also started changing just about everything.

He put the Bucs in new red and pewter uniforms. He also hired Dungy, who turned the franchise into a consistent winner. When Dungy couldn't quite get the Bucs over the hump, Glazer made a tough decision. He fired Dungy and traded for Jon Gruden.

In Gruden's first season, the Bucs won the Super Bowl. Speaking of Super Bowls, Glazer was instrumental in bringing two of them to Tampa Bay.

There are a lot of candidates with qualifications that make them worthy of the Ring of Honor. But none of them have better qualifications than Glazer.
Scott Smith of the Buccaneers’ official website took a look into the future, exploring possible 2015 inductees into the team’s Ring of Honor.

That gave me a lot to think about. Smith lists James Wilder, Tony Dungy, Monte Kiffin, Mike Alstott and John Lynch as the top five candidates. I’ve got no problem with any of those possibilities and I also would include Ronde Barber after a little more time passes from his retirement. All of those guys belong in the Ring of Honor at some point.

But there are two players from deep in the team’s history that I think belong in the Ring of Honor -- quarterback Doug Williams and running back Ricky Bell. This is where things get a little tricky.

Since starting the Ring of Honor, the Bucs pretty much have gone in chronological order. Derrick Brooks will be inducted in September and Warren Sapp got the honor last year. That makes plenty of sense because Sapp went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year and Brooks will go in this summer.

Brooks and Sapp were from the Dungy era, so it would make sense if Dungy, Kiffin, Alstott or Lynch was chosen in 2015. I’d put Lynch and Alstott as the early favorites.

But I’d like to offer a suggestion to the Bucs. The rules for the Ring of Honor don’t limit the number of inductees to one per year. Next year would be the perfect year to break from tradition and induct two people. Reach deep into the past and make Williams or Bell one of the inductees along with one of the Dungy-era candidates.

Williams and Bell have been passed over before, but it’s time to get one (or both) of them into the Ring of Honor. Bell’s career and life were cut short by an illness. But, for a brief period, Bell was one of the best running backs in the league and a class act off the field.

Williams probably already should be in the Ring of Honor and he’s partly to blame. Williams helped the Bucs go from an expansion team to respectability. But his spot in team history has been clouded a bit. Williams came to work in the team’s personnel office, but that didn’t last. Williams clashed with former general manager Mark Dominik and left the team on bad terms.

It’s time for Williams to set aside his bitterness. And it’s time for the Bucs to set aside memories of Williams’ departure.

The Ring of Honor is a very special thing and it should fully represent the team’s history.

Greatest Buccaneers: No. 4

April, 15, 2014
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We continue my series of the top five players in Tampa Bay’s history with No. 4. In this spot, I’m going with Ronde Barber.

Barber
For 16 years, Barber was the model of consistency and competence on and off the field. He thrived in the Cover 2 defense that Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin brought to Tampa Bay and his longevity was impressive.

You could make an argument Barber was the best draft pick in franchise history. He wasn’t taken until the third round, but he blossomed into a player who was selected first-team All-Pro five times and was on the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 2000s.

Barber's biggest claim to fame might be the fact that he’s the only player in NFL history with at least 40 career interceptions and 20 career sacks. That alone puts Barber in the conversation for a spot in the Hall of Fame, although he might face a tougher time getting there than teammates Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp, who were selected the first time they appeared on the ballot.

But Barber belongs on any list of the top players in franchise history. Perhaps the best thing about Barber was he spent his entire career with the Bucs and things ended gracefully. Some of Tampa Bay’s other all-time greats left on bad terms. But Barber got to decide when it was time to walk away from the game and that was something he richly deserved.

Best Buccaneers of all time?

April, 10, 2014
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While I take some time off next week, I'm going to leave you with a daily countdown of the five best players in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history.

I'll be going by my opinion. I'm still making up my mind on the final rankings, but the list of candidates (in no particular order) includes Lee Roy Selmon, Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, Ronde Barber, Mike Alstott, Paul Gruber, Hardy Nickerson, Jimmie Giles and Doug Williams.

Let's have a little fun. Let's hear your top five Bucs of all time in the comments section below and you'll see mine over the course of next week.

Who will be Bucs' nickelback?

March, 27, 2014
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers run onto the field next season, they’re going to introduce 12 players instead of the standard 11.

Coach Lovie Smith made that statement Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings. He supported it by saying he views the nickel cornerback as a 12th starter on defense. He also views the third receiver as a 12th starter on offense. But this post is about defense, so let’s stick with talking about nickelback.

The Bucs don’t know who their nickelback will be yet, but Smith shed some light on how he’ll make that determination. On paper, Tampa Bay’s top three cornerbacks are Alterraun Verner, Johnthan Banks and Mike Jenkins. D.J. Moore and Leonard Johnson also could be in line for some playing time.

Although the Bucs of old used to start Ronde Barber on the outside and move him inside for nickel situations, Smith sounded like it’s unlikely the Bucs will follow that route.

“Just think about having to become an expert at two positions,’’ Smith said. “As a general rule, we don’t do that an awful lot. Our No. 1 and No. 2 corner, whoever that is, they’re going to stay outside. Our nickel position is a position in itself. We have a coach, Larry Marmie, that will coach only it and every second he has will have guys in the nickel room being coached at that position.’’
Basketball's LeBron James caused a stir when he said he should be on the NBA's Mount Rushmore. With that in mind, let's have a little fun.

Let's talk about a Mount Rushmore for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

There are only four slots available and I'm not seeing anyone on the current roster who deserves that status. There are some current players who can get there, but they're not there yet. That's why I think you have to go back into Tampa Bay's past to determine who deserves to be included.

At least in my eyes, the first three spots are easy. Then, there's a tough call for the fourth spot.

Here are my four choices for a Buccaneers' Mount Rushmore. Feel free to add your thoughts in the accompanying comments section.

Lee Roy Selmon: You have to start with Selmon because he was Tampa Bay's first superstar. He brought respectability to the franchise in its early years and had a Hall of Fame career.

Derrick Brooks: For years, Selmon was unquestionably the best player in franchise history. Selmon's greatness hasn't diminished, but I'd give Brooks the nod as the best player in franchise history now.

Warren Sapp: Like him or not -- and many don't -- you have to give Sapp his props as a player. He was the first Tampa Bay player to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

Tony Dungy: This one's a tough call and I had a tough time choosing Dungy over Ronde Barber, John Lynch, Mike Alstott, Doug Williams, Jon Gruden and John McKay for the final spot. But I'm going with Dungy because he was the first coach to make this franchise consistently respectable. By the way, I'm giving retired tight end Tyji Armstrong special honorable mention for his many contributions.
TAMPA, Fla. -- There’s a lot of talk among Tampa Bay fans about how Tony Dungy and John Lynch got snubbed in the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection process over the weekend.

I think snubbed is way too strong of a term. Dungy and Lynch weren’t slam-dunk candidates like former Tampa Bay linebacker Derrick Brooks, who was selected in the first year he was eligible. Dungy and Lynch made it to the final 15 modern-era candidates and that alone is an honor.

But Dungy and Lynch each had some holes in their résumés. For Dungy, it’s the fact that he won only one Super Bowl despite having a great defense in Tampa Bay and Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. Lynch was hampered by the fact he played safety. It’s hard to get a safety into the Hall of Fame unless his interception total is astronomical.

I think those who are talking about snubs got spoiled by the first-ballot selections of Brooks this year and Warren Sapp last year. They made the process look easy, but it’s not. Brooks and Sapp had credentials that couldn’t be questioned. The same can’t be said for Dungy and Lynch.

Will Dungy and Lynch eventually get into the Hall of Fame? It’s entirely possible, but they need a year in which the class isn’t as strong as it was this year. I think cornerback Ronde Barber, who will be eligible in four years, is going to fall into a similar category. And let’s not even get into the belief that many Tampa Bay fans have that Mike Alstott should be a Hall of Famer.

Then, there’s one other factor to consider. How many guys from a team who won only one Super Bowl do you put in the Hall of Fame? It’s not like the Bucs (in their prime) were the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s.

Dungy, Lynch and Barber may end up in the Hall of Fame but it’s not going to be nearly as easy as it was for Brooks and Sapp.

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