By Tom Krasniqi
The last remaining member of the Buccaneers 2002 Super Bowl title team is calling it quits. Ronde Barber has decided to retire after 16 seasons after an amazing career. That great Bucs defense will produce some Hall of Famers. Warren Sapp will be enshrined into the Hall of Fame this August. Derrick Brooks will be eligible next year and is considered a lock. And in five years, Ronde should be as well.
Barber was a 3rd round pick back in 1997 out of Virginia. He played in just one game as a rookie in 1997 for Tony Dungy. But once he settled into the starting lineup, Ronde would never leave. He started an incredible 215 straight games, a record for a defensive player since the merger. He played through several injuries throughout the streak and never made a case out of it.
One of the smartest players ever to play the game. Barber was a master at deceiving opposing quarterbacks, especially dangerous on 3rd downs when he worked out of the slot. Barber racked up 28 sacks and 47 interceptions. His pick 6 during the 2002 NFC title game against the Eagles is arguably the greatest play in the history of the franchise. What's even more remarkable about that play was that Barber was injured and still played. According to John Lynch, Barber played that game with a PCL injury to his knee.
Barber was a 5-time Pro Bowler and a 3-time All Pro. His credentials speak for themseleves. His consecutive games played streak is unmatched by any defensive player in NFL history since the merger. No defensive back in the history of the game has recorded 20 INTs and 20 sacks for their career. Ronde easily surpassed those statistical hurdles.
Barber was a consummate professional and displayed a tireless work ethic. He led by example to the younger players and was a class act to deal with in the locker room. Whether it was an uplifting victory or a disappointing loss, Ronde was always a stand-up guy in dealing with the media and that's something I will never forget. Barber will likely venture into broadcasting and any network that hires him will be making a wise hire.
When the Hall of Fame voters convene in five years, they should elect #20 on the first ballot. He belongs in Canton and he should get there no later than 2018. Thanks for memories Ronde. You will be missed.