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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Barber's decision to play a 16th season may depend on Morris' future



Ronde Barber did more than just show up every day for work, but the record he may be remembered most for is how many times he punched in and out of the office.

He'll achieve it Sunday at Atlanta simply by walking onto the field at the Georgia Dome for his 225th career game, passing linebacker Derrick Brooks on the Bucs' all-time list, in the final game of his 15th NFL season.

Barber's greatness as a player is no longer questioned, not like it was when he was getting burned in his first pro game in 1997 by Cardinals' receiver Rob Moore, who caught eight passes for 147 yards and a touchdown. Barber was benched for the rest of the regular season before returning to the lineup in the second round of the playoffs against the Green Bay Packers.

"You know what? I’ll be as proud of my last game, whenever that is, as I was my first game,'' Barber said. "My mom tells me the same thing every time I play: play proud.''

Barber can certainly take pride in his career -- 43 interceptions, 27 sacks, 1,138 tackles, five Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl title. But it's his devotion to duty, the way he carries himself as an adult while playing with child-like enthusiasm, his professional approach to his job, which is really playing a game, that will be his legacy.

“I don’t know what means the most. It’s probably the respect that I have out of the building because of all these things and how I’ve been as a player on and off the field,'' Barber said. "That’s all you’ve got is your legacy when you’re done. Not that I’m done. I could be. But it’s about how I went about my job, how I approached this business. I had a lot of fun in it. I think everybody that’s been around has seen that.''

The question that awaits Barber in the off-season is whether he wants to continue playing in 2012? He signed a 1-year, $4-million contract last February. Physically, he feels as though he could play. But he admits that a big factor in his decision will be whether the Bucs coach he would be playing for is Raheem Morris.

“I would be lying if I didn’t say that was somewhat true,'' Barber said Wednesday. "But we’ll see. We’ll see. Ideally, I’d love to be back and play with Rah, play with Jimmy (Lake), play with Joe (Baker), play with all those guys. They’re great coaches, they’re fun to be around. They understand me and I understand them, so I imagine that would have something to do with it.''

After going 10-6 in 2010 and starting the season 4-2, Morris' team is mired in a nine-game losing streak that could easily become 10 Sunday against the Falcons.

Barber was asked if he would make a plea to the Glazer family which owns the Bucs to keep Morris another season?

“Nah, that’s not for me to do,'' Barber said. "Even through if there was one person who could do it, it probably would be me. That’s not my job.
“I’ve lots of good opinions about Rah. He’s a good friend of mine and I want well for him. He deserves a team that plays it’s (butts) off for him to be honest with you, guys that care about winning football, because that’s what good coaches are...Rah didn’t do anything different than he did last year and the results are starkly different. If that’s who we want as a head coach, then that’s who we got. That’s about as comfortable as I 
can be with it if they ask me. I’m pretty sure that’s what he would say.''

[Last modified: Wednesday, December 28, 2011 6:57pm]


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