The Bucs have said for months that they would welcome Ronde Barber back. On Wednesday, Barber declined the invitation. Ronde Barber officially ended his Buccaneers career after sixteen seasons in the pewter and red. Thursday following his press conference carried live on 620 WDAE, Barber joined Steve Duemig on 620 WDAE and talked about how difficult it was to say goodbye.
“Maybe aside from my very first Sunday in ’97 when I played, it wasn’t as smooth as I wanted it to be” said Barber.
Last year at 37 years old, Barber was asked to switch from his natural cornerback position to free safety - a transition the 1997 draft pick made smoothly, even flourishing in his new role, recording 92 tackles, one sack, and four interceptions in 2012 - the most tackles since 2006 (98) and interceptions since 2008 (4).
With all his accomplishments on the field, Barber credited the people off the field for making him what he came to be with the Buccaneers.
“You come away from it realizing that it’s not about you. As much as it is, it’s really about the people that helped you get there” said Barber. “As today was a celebration about me, in my mind it was as much as a celebration of all those people.”
At 215 consecutive starts Barber has seen it all: three general managers, four head coaches, countless quarterbacks, five Pro Bowls, and one Super Bowl.
His teammates have gone on to the Hall of Fame or are on their way. One day, Barber may meet them in Canton but for now Barber isn’t going anywhere.
“I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be here. Now that I’m done and I don’t have to lift weights and put on five pounds of muscle every year, the (golf) swing is getting good” Barber said.
General manager Mark Dominik and head coach Greg Schiano released a statement in March that they would let the veteran set his own timetable, and Barber took them up on the offer, waiting nearly two months to decide that the time had come to hang up his cleats.
When you’ve given everything you have for 16 seasons to one organization, the organization will allow you that time.
Barber was drafted by the Bucs in the third round of the 1997 Draft and played in only one game his rookie season. Back then, the NFL didn’t even record tackles. The following year Barber started nine games, then in 1999, 15 - beginning his amazing 215 consecutive start run.
During his career, Barber racked up 1,428 tackles - second in franchise history, behind only linebacker Derrick Brooks - 28.0 sacks, 47 interceptions, eight interception return touchdowns, 243 passes defensed, 15 forced fumbles, 11 fumble recoveries, and six additional touchdowns on fumble returns and blocked/deflected punts. He also played in 10 playoff games with nine starts, recording 50 tackles, one sack, two interceptions, one interception return touchdown, 11 passes defensed and one fumble recovery.
Barber is the only player in the history of the NFL to have 25 or more sacks and 40 or more interceptions. His 28.0 sacks are second-most all-time among defensive backs, and the most all-time by a cornerback. He tops the Buccaneers' record book with his nine interceptions returned for touchdowns (including postseason), and his 14 total regular-season return touchdowns put him fourth in NFL history.