TAMPA - Five-time Pro Bowl cornerback Ronde Barber is still considering the idea of retiring, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have given him at least one good reason to consider returning for another year.
Though he did not say what, if any, promises were made to Barber regarding positioning or playing time, general manager Mark Dominik said Friday the Bucs have made it clear they want Barber back in 2012.
"Ronde, coach (Greg) Schiano and I have had several meetings," Dominik wrote in a text to the Tribune. "He knows we'd like him back for a 16th season. We will respect his wish for a little more time to make his decision and look forward to speaking with him again soon."
Barber acknowledged having met with Dominik and the new Bucs coach, and he said in a text to the Tribune that he is "still considering" a return but also admitted the decision is a difficult one.
"I wish it were that simple," Barber wrote in a text earlier this week in response to a question asking whether he would be willing to return for another season with the Bucs.
Barber did not divulge the issues he is weighing, nor did he offer a timetable for a decision. It is clear, though, the Bucs would like to know his intentions before the free-agent signing period begins Tuesday at 4 p.m.
With Barber's future in doubt, the Bucs face the possibility of opening 2012 without either of their two starting cornerbacks from a year ago, as fellow starter Aqib Talib faces trial on a felony gun charge in Texas later this month.
Talib, who could face jail time if he is convicted on the charge, may be slapped with a league-mandated suspension even if he is found not guilty, further complicating the Bucs' cornerback situation.
Barber, who turns 37 next month, would at least provide the team with some stability at the position, where top reserves E.J. Biggers and Myron Lewis have struggled to play at a high level when pressed into action.
Barber, an unrestricted free agent this offseason, has started 199 consecutive games, the longest active starting streak in the NFL, and he was arguably the Bucs' most consistent defender a year ago.
He produced 79 tackles, a sack and three interceptions before suffering a broken arm in the last game of the season against Atlanta. Barber said recently the arm has healed, allowing him to return to normal activity.
This is the second consecutive offseason in which the Bucs have had to consider a defense without Barber, as he briefly contemplated retirement last winter before re-signing with the team early in the offseason.
One option Barber may be considering is leaving the Bucs for another team such as the Redskins, whose secondary is being coached by Barber's close friend and former Bucs coach Raheem Morris.
Barber has often expressed a desire to play his entire career in Tampa, however, and Schiano made it clear recently he believes Barber is a part of the fabric of the team.
"Here's a guy who's a Buc," Schiano said. "No doubt about it. It's in his blood, and I know he wants to do the best for (him) and his family, but I know he puts the Bucs right there with them, too."
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