Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bucs Beat: Barron hoped for more time with Barber
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the fields at One Buc Place for the first round of voluntary offseason workouts last week, everyone who was supposed to be in attendance was there.
As far as second-year S Mark Barron was concerned, though, there was one person missing who he wished would have been there.
“I really wish (Ronde Barber) would have come back and could be here,'' Barron said of the 16-year veteran defensive back who announced his retirement from the game earlier this month.
“I feel like I still had some things I could have learned from him. But I can't be selfish like that. He felt like it was that time for him, and so it is what it is. I just wish he would have come back.''
Barron could doubtless use some of Barber's tutelage. The Bucs' first-round pick in the 2012 draft, Barron struggled with his consistency last year, all but disappearing for several weeks between a solid start and strong finish.
But that's to be expected of any rookie, and Barron believes he is well on his way to evening out his play. He thinks he has a better understanding of the defense and his role in it than a year ago.
And it's not like he's suddenly lacking for mentors without Barber around. The Bucs signed two-time Pro Bowl S Dashon Goldson during free agency and traded for four-time Pro Bowl CB Darrelle Revis.
“I like learning and studying the game, and I picked up a lot of (tips) from (Barber) and now there are two more players I can learn from,” Barron said. “So, I feel like I am in a great situation, learning from three great players.''
Chances are The odds of a sixth-round draft choice making it in the NFL are pretty slim. At least one in seven never plays an NFL game. There is a good chance, though, RB Mike James, Tampa Bay's 2013 sixth-round draft pick, will not only make it, but play in a lot of games.
The Bucs' plans call for James to battle veteran Brian Leonard and 2012 seventh-round draft pick Michael Smith for the right to back up starting RB Doug Martin. And there's a feeling it won't be much of a battle.
“Not only is he a good running back, but he is really good on special teams,'' Bucs coach Greg Schiano said of James, a Haines City native who played at the University of Miami. “We saw that on his college tape, both in his early years and then even as a senior when he was their lead ball carrier.
“So, I think he's going to be a real good addition to our football team. Now, how fast does that happen? We've got to let that play out. But I think he has got all the tools to do that.''
Start me up The Bucs expect 2013 fourth-round draft pick Akeem Spence to take over as the starter at nose tackle. Spence, a University of Illinois product, says he'll be ready for the challenge.
Though he still has to make the adjustment to playing the titled style the Bucs employ at his position, Spence says he'll quickly prove he's worthy of a starter's role.
“I'm ready to step in,'' Spence said. “I played a lot in college. I have a lot of game experience. And going through training camp, I'll get a lot of reps with the (first team) and the coaches will see enough in me to declare me the starter.''
What's in a number? Barron won't provide details of the deal he struck with Revis to surrender the number 24 jersey he wore last year. But Barron has some special plans for the new number he will wear this year.
“The number doesn't make the player, the player makes the number,'' Barron said. “It's really nothing but a number. And I've got 23 now and I'm going to make something special out of it.''