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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Ronde Barber braces for competition, says Bucs can come back strong



barber_216570a.jpgRonde Barber elected to return to the Bucs for a 16th season because he believed he could still play, because the Bucs wanted him back and because he likes that the team is showing a commitment to winning.

But it should also be noted that he also chose to play this year because he thinks the Bucs aren’t as far as away from success as you might think.

“I look at the Giants’ last two Super Bowls. Those guys almost played their way out of it,” Barber said. “You only need an opportunity to get there. If you make the playoffs, you can make a run. We saw a young Green Bay team do it two years ago. There’s no reason you can’t.

“It’s the one true thing that I appreciate about this game. If we can get 53 guys to have singularity of purpose, be able to stay focused on the job, there’s no saying it can’t be us. That’s another reason why I’m playing.”

That might sound preposterous considering the Bucs are less than four months removed from finishing 4-12, last place in the NFC South. But Barber has been a part of dramatic turnarounds before, including the Bucs’ rise from 3-13 in 2009 to 10-6 in 2010. In 2005, the Bucs improved to 11-5 after finishing 5-11 in 2004.

“I think it can be us,” Barber said. “And I hope everybody in the building thinks it can be us, too.”

Personally, Barber said when he reflected on his own performance in 2011, he felt it was up to his usual standards, despite the team’s less-than-stellar results.

“My personal (performance) wasn’t as disastrous as it felt like, because we lost so many games,” he said. “That’s the good thing about the NFL, that you start over April and you start working toward a championship. When I felt like this team was going to make a push and try to win, that helped me make my decision to come back.”

Now that he’s back, Barber says he hasn’t been assured of anything. He indicated he’ll have to earn the starting right cornerback position he’s manned for the past 14 seasons, probably in a competition with new signee Eric Wright. And Barber’s okay with that.

“I’ll let it play itself out,” he said. “I’m no stranger to competition at my position. I’m not scared of that. They’ve been trying to replace me since ’98. I welcome that. At the least, it makes me better. At worst, the guy who is better than me, he’s going to get everything I’ve got and hopefully he comes out better. It is what it is. I don’t make those decisions.”

He still holds dear some advice he got from one of his college coaches long ago.

“He used to say . . . ‘The position doesn’t belong to you. You’re going to have to win this next year as well,’’’ Barber said. “That’s the way I’ve always approached my job.”

Barber touched on a number of other topics:

  •  On the idea of playing safety, Barber said: “I’m too small to play safety. I’m tiny. After (today’s) workout out here, I’m like 180 pounds. I’ll fit in where I fit in. they know that I’m here to help this team win, no matter what role I’m in.”
  • On new coach Greg Schiano and his staff: “They have a very direct purpose. The ship’s a little tighter than it was last year. But that’s a good thing. We need direction. We have a bunch of young men who need guidance, and he’s giving it to them. I think that’s the way it should be. I like the approach. I think it’ll work well for us.”
  • Regarding the acquisition of Wright, Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks: “I am excited about the guys we brought in here. This is a young football team, and it showed its youth last year – probably not in a great way. Getting guys like Carl Nicks and Vincent Jackson – who I didn’t know was that big – that’s huge for this program. I’m excited to be a part of it.”

[Last modified: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 5:20pm]


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