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Barber another for Bucs fans to savor

Ronde Barber, leaving the field at Raymond James after his last game, was the last player link to the Super Bowl title team.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Ronde Barber, leaving the field at Raymond James after his last game, was the last player link to the Super Bowl title team.

Growing up in Miami in the 1980s, it was difficult to appreciate my childhood team's storied past.

In retrospect, I didn't truly grasp that the Dolphins were a club with a uniquely glorious history, one marked by still unmatched achievements (the 1972 perfect season) and with nine Hall of Famers on its rosters in the 1970s and '80s. A young kid lacking context couldn't fully understand it all, taking most of it for granted.

But if you're a Bucs fan these days, you undoubtedly recognize what a special time this is.

DB Ronde Barber's retirement on Thursday gave us just the latest chance to celebrate another of the team's icons. Appreciating the Buccaneers' successes and the greatness of individual players is easier when there once was so little to commemorate.

Before this year, Tampa Bay had just one Hall of Famer, Lee Roy Selmon. Outside of the more recent expansion clubs, only the Bengals and Falcons had so few. Creamsicle was synonymous with futility.

But the way history will view the Bucs has changed dramatically, especially these days:

• Already this year, we've seen DT Warren Sapp's election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He will be inducted into the Bucs' Ring of Honor in the fall and is having his No. 99 retired, offering yet another opportunity to recall his greatness.

• Meanwhile, LB Derrick Brooks is on deck for Canton, eligible beginning next year. And you can rest assured no Buccaneer will again wear No. 55, either.

• S John Lynch, a nine-time Pro Bowl player, was a semifinalist for the Hall of Fame last year and will remain in the conversation.

• Former coach Tony Dungy, who has been at One Buc Place twice in the past two weeks — he attended the Sapp and Barber announcements — becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame next year and is thought to be a strong candidate. Look for him to eventually have his name in the Ring of Honor, too.

• Barber was given many tributes in the national media in recent days, a confirmation of his status as one of the league's great players.

While the team's golden era might be behind it, recent events have given fans a chance to relive so many of the good old days. Really, it's a great time to be a Bucs fan.

Now, imagine if the current team could just find a way to win the franchise's first postseason game since its first and only Super Bowl championship more than decade ago.

BARBER'S OFFER: One of the variables in Barber's decision to retire, though not necessarily the deciding factor, was the salary the team was willing to offer.

Given the 38-year-old's expected role as a backup for the first time since his rookie season, the Bucs were willing to commit only about $1.5 million.

That's a drastic cut from the past two seasons. Barber made $3 million in 2012 and $4 million in 2011. With his commitment to putting his body through the rigors of another season already in question, the pay cut probably made it easier to move on.

Besides, Barber is an attractive option for the TV networks, and he will recoup at least some of that money appearing on air.

HIGH HOPES: The offseason moves have QB Josh Freeman excited. And he believes the new guys can help on and off the field.

"I'm definitely fired up about this team, top to bottom, all the way around," Freeman said last week.

"I haven't had a chance to meet all the rookies and free agents, but the addition of (CB Darrelle) Revis and (S Dashon) Goldson, you can see (something) in those guys just in the way they carry themselves around the locker room. I'm fired up."

BOWERS BACK: After sustaining his torn Achilles tendon in May 2012, DE Da'Quan Bowers said he was heavier than he liked when he returned in October, playing at 288 pounds.

His goal for 2013? Get back to around 275, which is where he was when he was drafted in 2011. The hope is the projected starting left end will be faster and quicker as a result.

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at sholder@tampabay.com. Follow him on Twitter at @HolderStephen.

Barber another for Bucs fans to savor 05/11/13 [Last modified: Saturday, May 11, 2013 9:00pm]
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