Bucs rookie Peyton Barber, promoted to the active roster this week after an injury to backup Mike James, has a special homecoming Sunday as the Bucs open the season at the Falcons, not far from his hometown of Alpharetta, just north of Atlanta.
"Definitely high emotion," said Barber, who grew up cheering for Michael Vick when he grew up with the Falcons.
Barber drew headlines at the NFL combine when he said his mother Lori was homeless, though he's since clarified that she has been living with his sister near Atlanta. Being able to provide a better life for his mom has been a driving motivation for him -- he had missed the Bucs' initial cut and was signed to the practice squad, which generally pays $6,900 a week. Being promoted to the active roster, he'll make $26,470 this week and every week he stays on the roster, which can make a huge difference.
His parents, Ken and Lori, will both be at Sunday's game and he's working on getting more tickets for other family and friends he'd like to have at the game.
Being active as the No. 3 back Sunday likely just means a role on special teams, with limited playing time on offense unless Doug Martin or Charles Sims are injured. He's working on the punt, punt return and kickoff return units.
"I don't think I've made progress in just one spot," said Barber, who led the Bucs with 99 rushing yards in preseason, albeit at 2.5 yards per carry. "I think I've made it in every (spot), whether's it's running the ball, pass protection, picking up the plays quicker."
Koetter said he's happy for Barber, but said playing in the NFL is a privilege for all 53, knowing how many talented players have been cut across the league in the past week.
"Please don't take this wrong, but there's 53 guys that have families to feed, and I feel for every one of these guys," Koetter said. "There's 600 good football players that got cut this week. Peyton's no different. He has a unique situation and he's working for his family, just like everybody else is."