During halftime of the most important football game of his life, Ronde Barber turned on a TV in a back room by himself and watched Gwen Stefani, Sting and Shania Twain perform.
No Xs and Os on the chalkboard, no treatment from the trainers, no quiet contemplation of the second half to come. Nope, just “Man! I Feel Like a Woman,” “Just a Girl,” and “Message in a Bottle.”
This was the elongated halftime of Super Bowl XXXVII at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, and Barber was looking for a way to pass the time before his team could resume their 20-3 drubbing of the Oakland Raiders. The Buccaneers cornerback wasn’t nervous about the rest of the game. He was bored.
“One indelible memory for me on Super Bowl Sunday was, the game wasn’t really a game, and we’re in halftime,” said Barber. “It’s like a 25-minute halftime, and I’m actually sitting there bored and I turn on the Super Bowl and watch the halftime show in the locker room.”
Barber shared this story on his “Total Access” radio show on Tuesday night, during which he welcomed a special guest in his Super Bowl teammate, John Lynch. Lynch is coming to town this weekend for two reasons – he’s calling the game for FOX and he’s going to be part of the 10-year reunion of the Bucs’ Super Bowl championship squad. The two long-time teammates chatted for most of an hour on the show (listen here), and behind-the-scenes stories like this one tumbled out non-stop.
Other revelations from the conversation between Barber, Lynch and show host T.J. Rives included:
- Barber wasn’t playing at 100% when he made perhaps the signature play in franchise history, his 92-yard interception return for a touchdown in Philadelphia that sealed the NFC Championship Game and sent the Bucs to their first Super Bowl.
Lynch: “Ronde, as usual, was demonstrating his toughness in addition to his great ability. He had a torn PCL at the time and could barely straighten his leg, and he had played on it for weeks. So if you ever go back there and watch it will be fun for the fans because you’ll see a gallop as opposed to a smooth stride, and that made it even better.”
- Though he did little more than watch Barber sprint away from behind, that moment was the most memorable of the season for Lynch.
Lynch: “We kept running into a concrete wall with the Eagles. We just didn’t feel like we had an answer. We felt like they had all the answers. In that particular game, we got out [in front] but they were coming hard. They were going in to score and we needed a play because it felt like momentum was shifting…and there was the play.
“I don’t know if people believe it, but as soon as we got there and we knew we were playing Oakland, we knew in our minds that we were not only beating them, we were beating them good. So I think it was just getting by that speed bump that was in our way. Whether it was mental – sometimes there’s just a good matchup or a bad matchup – they had had our number for years. They beat us in the regular season, and I remember taking that bus ride and saying, ‘We’re going to come back here and we’re going to beat them.’ And sure enough we did.”
- While that moment is obviously the top highlight in Barber’s career, there was another one from earlier in 2002 that he considers just as memorable.
Barber: “Jon [Gruden] came in and his first words were, ‘We’re winning a Super Bowl this year.’ That could be the moment, to be honest with you, considering what we did later.”
- Barber left Veterans Stadium with a special souvenir to go with the football from his interception.
Barber: “I took a chunk of the turf. I think [Head Groundskeeper] Rob Julian was there and he cut it out. I may be giving him credit he doesn’t deserve, but somebody took out a chunk of the turf, just a little two or three-inch piece of it. I taped it to that football, the interception ball and it’s sitting upstairs in my trophy case.”
- The Bucs had no coaching staff and a very peculiar person enforcing curfew the first night in San Diego.
Lynch: “I’ll never forget, we went on a plane ride without any of our coaches because they felt like it was important to stay back and game plan and whatnot. So it was just a bunch of football players on a big plane to go out to San Diego to play the Super Bowl and we didn’t even have a game plan. I think Simeon Rice, of all people, was in charge of curfew, and that’s a scary thought.”
- The Buccaneers never doubted that they were going to beat Oakland; in fact, they didn’t think it was going to be close.
Barber: “The rest of [the week] was such a blur. But the coaches came in and said, ‘We’re not only going to win this game, we’re going to, in simpler terms, blow these guys out.’ I felt like our defense was designed specifically to stop the type of offense that Oakland was running. I think, deep down, the game was already won by Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and on Sunday it was really kind of a cake walk.”
- One of Lynch’s fondest moments from the Super Bowl came from before the action even started.
Lynch: “About a month earlier I had received and Don Shula gave me the award. As he introduced me, he said, ‘I just told John privately that I was just called yesterday by the league and I was going to do the honorary coin toss [for the Super Bowl]. At this point, we weren’t in the playoffs yet, it was near the end of the season. He said, ‘I want to say in front of everyone as I bring John Lynch up to receive this award that John, I look forward to seeing you at the 50-yard line.’ I had forgot about that story – I don’t know how I forget that with Don Shula, and I kind of mosey out for the coin toss and I look up and Don says, ‘I told you so.’ That was a great moment.”
All week, the Total Access radio shows are featuring the usual host player paired up with a player at a similar position from the Super Bowl team. On Wednesday, catch Gerald McCoy chatting with Warren Sapp and on Thursday listen to Josh Freeman trade stories with Brad Johnson. Total Access airs from 6:00-7:00 p.m. ET on 620 WDAE-AM, and the shows are also posted on Buccaneers.com the next day in the Total Access archive.