Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Buccaneers teammates, coaches praise Barber
Ronde Barber's 16-year NFL career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a profound impact on teammates and coaches.
“Ronde was a consummate pro and teammate,'' said former Bucs cornerback Brian Kelly, who started opposite Barber for five years, including the 2002 championship season. “I loved stepping on that field knowing No. 20 was on my team. He had a Hall of Fame career.''
Barber was the last remaining player link to the club that hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy in San Diego a decade ago, capping a run that saw the Bucs make the NFC playoffs five times in six seasons.
“For Ronde to play that long and at such a high level is fantastic,'' former Tampa Bay coach Tony Dungy said. “I coached him for five years and he made a career-worth of plays for me. His career is a testament to ability, hard work and preparation.''
During their glory years under Dungy and Jon Gruden, the Bucs were led by a suffocating defense that featured Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Barber and John Lynch.
“Dependable, tough, durable, smart … a playmaker,'' Brooks said in describing Barber. “Ronde made big plays in big moments.''
Barber's recent teammates took to their Twitter accounts Wednesday to show their appreciation for a gamer who shifted smoothly from corner to safety in 2012 and showed rookie Mark Barron what it took to be a professional.
“No. 20, you had an amazing career,'' 23-year-old safety Ahmad Black said on Twitter. “I hope to be half the player you were. You will be missed in Tampa Bay.''
Offensive lineman Jeremy Zuttah was happy just to be in Barber's presence on a daily basis.
“I'm thankful over these past five years of my career to play with the great Ronde Barber,'' Zuttah tweeted. “I was privileged to have my locker next to a legend.''
Left tackle Donald Penn, whose locker was only a few feet from Barber's, said he talked to the five-time Pro Bowler on Wednesday.
“Just got off the phone with No. 20,'' Penn said in a tweet. “He will be missed. Such a great player, person and leader. He has helped me so much as a person.''
Defensive tackle Roy Miller, who signed with Jacksonville as a free agent after four years with the Bucs, said Barber made a lasting impact.
“I thought Ronde had three years left in him,'' Miller said. “He is the definition of a pro, on and off the field, and a legend at corner.''
After joining the Bucs in 1997 as a third-round draft pick out of Virginia, Barber struggled early in his pro career. He played only one game as a rookie and later admitted he thought he was in danger of being released.
Instead, he emerged as the best cornerback in franchise history and a potential member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he is first eligible for the Class of 2018.
“Ronde worked on his weaknesses,'' Dungy said, “and that's what a lot of players aren't willing to do. He could have easily gotten discouraged at the start, but instead, he had the will to make himself a great player.''