Tampa Bay's ageless Barber keeps on keeping on

October 31, 2012, 8:27 pm
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How long has Tampa Bay defensive back Ronde Barber been playing football for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?He was a third-round pick in the 1997 NFL draft. The same draft that yielded Orlando Pace to the St. Louis Rams at No. 1 overall, Darrell Russell to the Raiders at No. 2 overall and Adam Treu to Oakland in the third round at No. 72 overall. Or six picks after Barber was scooped up by the Buccaneers.Or think of it this way -- he was drafted less than three months after President Bill Clinton was sworn in for his second term.Five Pro Bowls, three first-team All-Pro selections, 46 interceptions, 1,203 tackles and a late-career position switch later, Barber is still doing it. And the 37-year-old, who has made a seamless transition from cornerback to free safety brings his seeming ageless ability to Oakland Sunday.RELATED: Ronde Barber career stats 2012 game logs
"I think if youve played as long as I have, if you havent seen it all, youre just not paying attention," Barber said in a conference call with Bay Area reporters on Wednesday. "Ive seen just about anything offenses can throw at me and defensive schemes can throw it at me. Theres obviously little things that you pick up and with this new staff Ive even picked up new stuff, because my previous 15 years is basically the same type of system."Ive had three different head coaches, but the defense stayed pretty similar so I was very comfortable in that. With this one, Ive had to adjust, have to get used to some new things, but its all the same."Thus far, in moving from the famed "Tampa-2" zone defense to a more hybrid "man," Barber already has three interceptions, matching his season totals from the past two years, with a 78-yard pick-6 against Kansas City's Brady Quinn on Oct. 14.Barber was one of, if not the first veteran rookie Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano sought out after being hired."At the time time, Ronde wasn't sure if he was going to come back and thank goodness he did," Schiano said. "He has just been an awesome contributor, not only on the field but off it he has been a leader. We have a fairly young team and Ronde serves as a great role model and example for the younger guys. How to prepare. Even at this stage of his career, the guy is incredible in his preparation, both mentally and physically. Great mentor for our guys."And the position change?"I think it has gone as well as you could have hoped for this late in your career," Schiano said. "But Ronde is a football player so I think the challenge of a new position really energized him. He has attacked this thing in a great way and he is in great physical shape. You worry as you get into the latter part of the year, can he sustain?"We'll be smart with him, but he is in great shape and playing at a high level."Barber was also playing at a high level a decade ago, when his Buccaneers met the Raiders in San Diego for Super Bowl XXXVII.It is not a fond memory for the Raiders or their fans, and why would the 48-21 Tampa Bay victory be a highlight in the East Bay. But in Tampa Bay, well, it's all so far away for Barber, who, along with the Raiders' kicking duo of Shane Lechler and Sebastian Janikowski, are the only players still with their respective teams form that game."I never think about that," said Barber, who started at right cornerback in the Super Bowl and had four tackles. "That seems like a lifetime ago. Obviously Im the only one in the building other than (third-year general manager) Mark Dominik. Is that right? I may be mistaken. There may be a couple of people, but football people theres not many of us left."Thats not something that ever comes up. Obviously, when people bring it up you recollect and remember. But it really doesnt seem like the same career. Thats a long time gone for me."