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Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Ronde Barber is considering playing a few more years

TAMPA — Cornerbacks are often made to feel like they live on an island, isolated against a receiver with solitude as their only other companion.

Ronde Barber has learned to embrace that feeling after 14 years. By adding to his glittering resume, becoming the only defensive back to record 40 career interceptions and 25 sacks with a pick Sunday at San Francisco, he's enjoying it.

"I was joking with somebody Sunday, it's kind of cool to make your own club," Barber said Wednesday. "I never intended it, but now that I'm here, it's good to be here."

At 35 and in the final year of his contract, Barber said he may want to stick around a little longer. He said being part of the youngest team in the NFL has rejuvenated his career.

The Bucs are 7-3 and one game behind Atlanta in the NFC South heading into Sunday's game at Baltimore.

Asked if he has been rejuvenated, Barber said, "A hundredfold. I can't put it into words, really. That being said, I'll try.

"I come into work every day and it's not like I'm grinding. … It's like I'm coming to hang out with a bunch of young kids, and they make me feel like I'm their age. It's not working the other way where I'm trying to make them mature.

"I'm excited to go out to practice. I'm excited about Sundays. I'm excited to watch them play but also to see what they can do. … I've never, ever been around guys this talented. … It's been a good year."

Barber is compiling more Pro Bowl numbers. He is second on the club with 69 tackles, and he has a sack, a forced fumble and eight passes defensed. His three interceptions rank second on the team to Aqib Talib, who has five.

"He's playing with high energy," coach Raheem Morris said. "He's certainly our leader, our leader by example. He's dominating on the football field."

Barber said at the start of this season that it would likely be his last. But he has never ruled out continuing his career.

"I'll take it to the table in February or March, whenever that time comes," Barber said. "I'm not even ready to look across that bridge yet. But I am at the end of my contract. It's got to be a mutual wanting of each other (him and the Bucs), but we'll see.

"There's a lot more that goes into it than what's going on at the current time. I can't say that I'm completely done. Mark (Dominik, general manager) and Raheem will help me make a decision one way or the other."

Barber credits much of his success to former defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin playing him in the slot as an extra defensive back on passing downs.

A third-round draft pick out of Virginia in 1997, Barber played in one regular-season game as a rookie. Midway through the next season, he took over for Anthony Parker as a starter.

Offensive coordinators didn't know what to make of Barber's ability to rush the passer. For several years they didn't account for him with anything other than a running back. Now he routinely encounters guards and tackles.

This week, the Pro Football Hall of Fame asked for Barber's jersey and gloves for an exhibit to commemorate his 40 interceptions and 25 sacks. Whether a bust of Barber will join those items when his career ends remains to be seen.

"Five to 50 years later, they argue about whether (your career) was good enough (for the Hall of Fame), how you stood out amongst your peers," Barber said. "It'd be nice to be in that conversation."

As for the record, Barber has more time to distance himself from the field.

"I'm sure someone will come along and challenge that eventually," Barber said. "Just putting it all together is what I'll cherish most about it. I've played a long time. When you play a long time, you have a chance to put together some decent stats."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Ronde Barber is considering playing a few more years 11/24/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 24, 2010 9:12pm]
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