It may seem like ageless cornerback Ronde Barber has already surpassed every available numerical milestone in the Buccaneers’ record book. He is, after all, already the franchise’s all-time leader in games played (229), interceptions (44), interception yardage (775), passes defensed (235), defensive touchdowns (11) and Player of the Week Awards (10). He ranks second in tackles with 1,354 but can’t realistically expect to catch longtime teammate Derrick Brooks (2,196), and even though his 28 sacks are the most ever by an NFL cornerback he can’t really expect to catch the great Lee Roy Selmon (78.5).
Ah, but there is one more important and impressive statistic that will soon belong to Barber in that franchise record book: games started. On Sunday, he’ll take the first step by grabbing a share of first place alongside Brooks.
Against the Chiefs this weekend, Barber will make the 221st start of his career, equaling the record set by Brooks from 1995-2008. It’s fitting that this will happen during this particular game, when the Buccaneers will be inducting tackle Paul Gruber into their Ring of Honor at halftime. Gruber was the first Buccaneer who was routinely referred to as a franchise “ironman,” as he rarely missed a single play, let alone a game, during his career. Like Gruber, both Brooks and Barber were (and in the latter case, still is) seemingly indestructible. Brooks never missed a game due to injury during his 14-year career, all of which was spent with Tampa Bay. Barber, too, has played his whole 16-year NFL career with the Buccaneers and has never missed a game due to injury.
Barber won’t break the Bucs’ games started record and take over sole possession of first place with his 222nd career start until the following weekend against New Orleans, but with Gruber on hand for his induction and Brooks also in the building with his fellow 1997 team alumni, he picked the perfect weekend to tie it.