TAMPA — Ronde Barber has been labeled a "system cornerback" because of his success in the zone heavy Tampa 2.
Fairly or unfairly, despite five Pro Bowl appearances, Barber's accomplishments rarely received the same acclaim as some players because he benefited from being in the same defense for 13 seasons.
That's why when the Bucs hired Jim Bates as defensive coordinator, some questioned if Barber, at 34, would be miscast in a scheme that emphasizes more bump coverage.
But Barber is intent on clearing up misconceptions.
Start with the fact that while Bates wants his cornerbacks to play on the line of scrimmage, they are not always in man-to-man coverage.
"You have to succeed at the line of scrimmage," Barber said. ''There's a misconception that we're playing a lot of man. But this is a leverage defense. It's not so much I'm playing man-to-man every snap. Now there's some situations where you can end up in man, but we're really playing (zone) corners.
"It's a deny defense. You take away parts of the offense's game plan and hope to succeed. A lot of it is deny and run. It's not so much I'm playing man-to-man every snap. But it's different. It's something I'm certainly getting used to, but I think it's something we can handle. I think it's something that's good."
At 5 feet 10, 184 pounds, Barber is the only cornerback in NFL history to record at least 20 career sacks and 20 career interceptions. He has made much of his reputation by moving into the slot on nickel passing downs, relying on his instincts and gambling nature.
But Barber admits it was time for a change.
"Monte (Kiffin's) scheme was great for years; 13 or however many years we ran that," Barber said. "It had some weaknesses, and it was exposed a little bit. There's no doubt about it. Not that it wasn't good because we were very successful for a lot of years. Some of the stuff we're doing now, we would've liked to have gotten to in the past, but we couldn't. We just weren't committed to it then. But we are committed to it now. We've got to roll with it. There will be some growing pains, but we'll roll with it. We'll figure it out.
"I'm enjoying learning a lot of things about defense that I wasn't clued into through the years."
It certainly will make training camp more interesting for Barber. Saturday, Barber was beaten on a few plays during one-on-one passing drills but held his own on a few others.
"Coming to training camp the past eight years to nine years, it was almost second nature," Barber said. "I was going through the motions. I knew exactly what I needed to do. Come game time, I could start gearing it up. But this training camp for me is a lot different, trying to figure out where I can make plays.
"Just being specific, I'm a visual corner. I like to see everything. (Defensive backs coach) Joe Baker is on me every day about my eye control because I've got that guy. I can't look to see if I can steal off the (middle) linebacker. I've got this guy, so that's some stuff I'm going to have to get used to."
What kind of defense will the Bucs have this season?
"It'll be faster. That's for sure," Barber said. "I can already feel that. Definitely more physical. We just have … a youthful exuberance in the locker room. It's different. We were definitely a team run by our veterans in the past, and that's all well and good when you drive from the top down.
"But really, really good football teams are driven from the bottom up. We're only as good as that 53rd guy. If he's got an attitude and he's carrying that with him, we can be a good football team."