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Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Ronde Barber doesn't mind move from cornerback to safety

Ronde Barber, who has been a cornerback for his 15 seasons in the NFL, has played safety during this week’s minicamp.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times (2011)

Ronde Barber, who has been a cornerback for his 15 seasons in the NFL, has played safety during this week’s minicamp.

TAMPA — His statue stands with those of seven former teammates like a sentry in the lobby at One Buc Place, proof that Ronde Barber has been a fixture at cornerback in Tampa Bay for going on 16 seasons.

But the 37-year-old Barber is willing to move where he is needed.

At the request of new coach Greg Schiano during minicamp this week, Barber has embraced a switch to safety, where Tampa Bay is thin after the recent release of Tanard Jackson.

Despite five Pro Bowls, being on the team that won Super Bowl XXXVII and having the NFL's longest active streak of starts at 199, the most by a cornerback in league history, Barber is okay with starting over.

"I'm fitting where needed currently," Barber said. "They know I can play corner. They know I can play inside. I'm where there's a loose spot right now, which I'm all right with right now. It's good. It's fun. There's a lot to learn, but it's good.

Barber said former coach and defensive coordinator Raheem Morris and former defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin used him at safety.

"I've never been averse to it in the past. It's not as if I'm completely unprepared for it. But I'm a football player. I'm in Year 16. I'm not demanding anything. I want to play, and I want to win. And I think our coaches have that same feeling about me."

Barber signed a one-year, $3 million contract in March and planned to compete to start at right cornerback, possibly with free agent Eric Wright. Starting left cornerback Aqib Talib goes on trial June 25, charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Barber believes the Bucs plan to draft a cornerback — LSU's Morris Claiborne could be available with the fifth overall pick. And Jackson's release left the Bucs with only four safeties: Cody Grimm, Larry Asante, Ahmad Black and Devin Holland. Only Grimm has started a regular-season game.

When Schiano asked Barber to play safety during this week's voluntary minicamp, he didn't hesitate.

"In my short time with Ronde, he is the epitome of a pro football player," Schiano said. "Having coached in this league — even though it was 15 years ago — I remember having the opportunity of being blessed to coach a few true pros. And Ronde is one of those guys.

"There was a play (Tuesday) that is kind of an everyday play you could go through the motions, and he did it like a first-year rookie trying to impress the coaching staff. And that, to me, is what a true pro is. He's trying to perfect his craft. I like what I see out there. I don't know if that's where he'll stay or not. But I really like the way he's attacking it. In the scheme we play, I think he can do it."

Barber, who has 1,142 career tackles and 27 sacks — an NFL record for defensive backs — has played in the tackle box as a slot defender in nickel packages.

"There's no transition," Barber said. "What I've done so far in this camp is really no different than me playing down in the box all these years. It's just slowing my feet down from corner feet to safety feet. It's a little bit of a learning curve with the verbiage and assignments, but it's nothing I can't handle if need be."

If there is a concern, it might be that at 5 feet 10, 190 pounds, Barber is small for an NFL safety.

"Some would worry about his size," Schiano said. "I don't worry about it."

Others have moved from cornerback to safety late in their careers.

"Rod (Woodson) and Aeneas (Williams) did it," Barber said. "I can cheat like I've always cheated without having to worry about covering so many receivers. I've been doing it this week, and we'll see what develops."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Ronde Barber doesn't mind move from cornerback to safety 04/18/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 10:13pm]
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