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Sunday, Jun 24, 2018
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Martin Fennelly Columns

Bucs' Barron looking to make a splash

— He showed flashes and splashes his first two NFL seasons.

It’s not enough.

He knows it.

Bucs safety Mark Barron is having a good training camp.

He needs one.

“I just feel ready for a good year with this system and the way it’s set up for (safeties) to make plays and cause turnovers,” Barron said. “I just want everybody to see what kind of player I really am.”

Barron feels poised for a breakout that will more than validate going seventh overall in the 2012 draft. The man picked two spots behind him at No. 9, linebacker Luke Kuechly, was, in consecutive seasons, voted defensive rookie of the year and defensive player of the year. The soft-spoken Barron displayed promise and packed some wallop.

His talent is obvious. Now he needs to consistently show it.

“I don’t regret being picked seventh,” Barron said. “I see myself in that light.”

It’s time to flip the switch.

Lovie Smith has brought the Tampa 2 back to Tampa and is looking for a hard-hitting safety to help change games.

“We’ve talked a lot about and I’ve heard (media) talk a lot about Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy being compared to two Hall of Famers (Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp),” Smith said. “But we had another great safety here in John Lynch. Mark Barron looks the part.”

“Some people might feel that’s pressure, but that’s never bothered me,” Barron said. “I always put more pressure on myself to be the best I can be or be one of the best at what I do.”

He has 177 tackles in two seasons. In 2013, he had two interceptions, two sacks and a forced fumble, despite battling an injury after banging knees with Carolina receiver Steve Smith in the season opener.

“I chipped some cartilage in my knee and I just had to work my way through it,” Barron said. “You all didn’t know, but I didn’t really practice a lot during the week. A lot of times I just went out and jogged around. I couldn’t really run.”

Barron still didn’t miss any games, though his knee required surgery in January and limited him to rehab during offseason workouts and minicamps.

“That’s how I am. I don’t like to miss games,” he said.

Barron, 6-foot-2, 213 pounds, has had some imposing tackles, including as a rookie, when he flattened that same Steve Smith.

Was that the best?

“I just hit ’em,” Barron said with a smile. “I don’t rate ’em.”

It should be noted that the Smith hit came at the end of a long catch and run. There have been a lot of those, Mark Barron hits after grabs, too many, really, some holes in his coverage.

The same goes for the other Bucs starting safety, Dashon Goldson.

This training camp, Barron had three interceptions in three days. He also made a smashing goal-line stop on Bucs running back Bobby Rainey. Barron, up in the box. He thinks this system is perfect for him. He aims to be in the mix with the top safeties in football.

“I feel like (fans) have seen just some of me,” Barron said. “But splash plays ... you have to make those interceptions, cause those turnovers. You’ve got to have more than big hits. You can be playing well, but if you’re not making those splash plays, you might not be seen in a certain light. I plan on having one of those years.”

He needs one.

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