Barber embraces possible move to safety: 'I'm not demanding anything'
His statue stands with those of seven former teammates like a sentry in the lobby at One Buc Place, proof that Ronde Barber has been a fixture at cornerback in Tampa Bay for 15 seasons.
But the 37-year old Barber is willing to move where he is needed.
At the request of new Bucs coach Greg Schiano during the team's minicamp this week, Barber has embraced a switch to the safety position where Tampa Bay is relatively thin after the recent release of Tanard Jackson.
Despite five Pro Bowls, winning Super Bowl XXXVII and the NFL's longest streak of consecutive-games started of 199, the most by a cornerback in league history, Barber is willing to start over if it means filling a hole in the starting lineup.
“I’m fitting where needed currently. They know I can play corner. They know I can play inside. I’m where there’s a loose spot right now, which I’m alright with right now. It’s good. It’s fun. There’s a lot to learn, but it’s good.“I’m fitting where needed currently,'' Barber said. "They know I can play corner. They know I can play inside. I’m where there’s a loose spot right now, which I’m alright with right now. It’s good. It’s fun. There’s a lot to learn, but it’s good.
"It is what it is. I’ve never been averse to it in the past. Raheem (Morris) and Monte (Kiffin) used me in some of those situations before. It’s not as if I’m completely unprepared for it. But, you know, I’m a football player. I’m in Year 16. I’m not demanding anything. You know? I want to play and I want to win and I think our coaches have that same feeling about me.''
Barber signed a 1-year, $3-million contract with the Bucs in March and planned to compete for his starting right cornerback spot, possibly with Lions free agent Eric Wright. Starting left cornerback Aqib Talib has a trial June 25 in Dallas on charges on assault with a deadly weapon and could face likely suspension if convicted. Barber believes the Bucs plan to draft another cornerback and Tampa Bay could be staring at LSU's Morris Claiborne with the No. 5 overall pick.
But Jackson's release last week left the Bucs with only four safeties on the roster -- Cody Grimm, Larry Asante, Ahmad Black and Devin Holland. Of that group, only Grimm has started a regular-season NFL game.
When Schiano asked Barber to play safety during this week's voluntary minicamp, he didn't hestitate.
"In my short time with Ronde, he is the epitome of a pro football player,'' Schiano said. "You know, having coached in this league, even though it was 15 years ago, I remember having the opportunity of being blessed to coach a few true pros and Ronde is one of those guys.
"There was a play yesterday, that is kind of an every day play you could go through the motions, and he did it like a first-year rookie trying to impress the coaching staff. And that, to me, is what a true pro is. He's trying to perfect his craft. I like what I see out there. I don't know if that's where he'll stay or not. But I really like the way he's attacting it and I think he can do it. In the scheme we play, I think he can do it.''
Barber is no stranger to playing down in the tackle box as a slot defender in nickel packages. He has 1,142 career tackles and 27 sacks -- an NFL record for defensive backs.
"There's no transition,'' Barber said. "What I've done so far in this camp is really no different than me playing down in the box all these years. I've done some half field stuff and some whole field stuff before, so it's not much of a transition. It's just slowing my feet down from corner feet to safety feet. Like I said, it's a little bit of a learning curve with the verbiage and assignments, but it's nothing I can't handle if need be."