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Barber's exit creates Bucs leadership void

TP_328371_WALL_Bucs_10 (11/28/2010 Baltimore) Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) talks to Stephen Holder for the weekly Kickin’ Back feature for game day. [Daniel Wallace   |   Times]

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

TP_328371_WALL_Bucs_10 (11/28/2010 Baltimore) Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) talks to Stephen Holder for the weekly Kickin’ Back feature for game day. [Daniel Wallace | Times]

TAMPA

Ronde Barber hung up his cleats, shed a few tears, said his goodbyes, then walked out of One Buc Place on Thursday afternoon.

He leaves behind 16 years' worth of great memories.

But it's not what he left behind that we're talking about today. It's what he is taking with him:

Valuable experience and irreplaceable leadership; 16 years' worth of games, practices, lessons and, of course, that Super Bowl championship.

Barber is the last player from that 2002 Super Bowl-winning team to leave, and now the Bucs must figure out how to move forward without the leadership the 38-year-old provided.

How exactly do the Bucs do that?

When coach Greg Schiano was asked that question, he paused for a moment, then smiled: "I think it's going to be very hard.''

Who, exactly, is supposed to fill that leadership void? Here's a look at some of those players who need to step up:

Gerald McCoy

Most everyone around One Buc agrees McCoy has to become the next leader, particularly if we're talking about the defense. Even Barber thinks so.

"I think it's very clearly Gerald McCoy,'' Barber said. "He's the guy that needs to assume that leadership role. Not only because he's one of the best players on the team but because he has the personality to handle it. Not everybody can handle a leadership role."

McCoy made strides last season, mostly because the defensive tackle stayed healthy. His trip to the Pro Bowl gives him a little more cache, and he always has done what good leaders do: accepts responsibility and takes accountability. The question remains whether he has the type of makeup that will allow him to confront teammates and raise his voice when the moment requires.

"I think Gerald McCoy can continue to develop in that area," Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said.

Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson

The two additions at defensive back arrive with solid credentials. Revis is a four-time Pro Bowl player and, when healthy, might be the best cornerback in football. Goldson is a two-time Pro Bowl corner. They might be the Bucs' two best players, especially on defense. They definitely have the most complete resumes. And their leadership qualities were considered before they were brought to Tampa Bay.

"Absolutely," Dominik said. "They are two really known leaders on their (last) football teams.''

But both are new, so are they able to establish themselves right away? Plus, Revis has a greater concern at the moment, which is returning from a knee injury.

Josh Freeman

Of course, you want your quarterback to be the leader on your club. Freeman, by all accounts, is a good teammate. But the issue with Freeman is he just hasn't accomplished enough yet. There's still a question about whether he will be here long term. He needs to work out his own issues before he suggests answers for others. It also would help if he used the word "I" a little more than "we."

Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks

Joseph goes back to the 2006 season, meaning he has been around longer than most in Tampa Bay. Nicks came over last season and has a Super Bowl ring. Both have respect in the locker room and the huddle. But both are offensive linemen. Their leadership could be limited by that.

Final analysis

There are other players who have the ability to lead. There's wide receiver Vincent Jackson, whose work ethic might be the best on the team. Dominik likes how linebackers LaVonte David and Mason Foster are developing as leaders.

"It's more about maturity," Dominik said. "Experience helps, but it's the maturity and how they lead."

Barber believes it will be McCoy, Jackson and Freeman.

"You just can't point a guy out and say, 'He's got to be it,' " Barber said. "But in my mind, those are the guys who should be in the position."

Schiano points out that, in many ways, Barber will continue to lead.

"He has left a legacy here," Schiano said. "He has shown a lot of guys how to be leaders, how to be a pro."

But the reality is Barber is now gone, and so is his leadership.

"Look, it's hard," Dominik said. "(Finding leaders) is something we've focused on. But, we do realize that it's a lot that is leaving the building."

The question now is: What's left behind?

Tom Jones can be reached at tjones@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8544 and can be heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-AM 620.

The Greatest Play

With the Bucs leading the Eagles 20-10 and 3:12 remaining in the 2002 NFC Championship Game, Philadelphia began a furious rally. With first and goal at the Bucs 10, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb tried to hit receiver Antonio Freeman on a slant. Barber faked a blitz, then dropped back into coverage and stepped in front for the pass for the interception and ran 92 yards into playoff history. Click the red dots below to read facts and quotes about Barber's renowned play.

 

 

Barber's exit creates Bucs leadership void 05/09/13 [Last modified: Monday, January 13, 2014 12:13pm]
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