At 37 years old, Ronde Barber is still playing every game and toiling through every practice for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And as Eric Adelson of Yahoo.com Sports recently suggested, he is still underappreciated.
Using the Buccaneers’ Week 14 reunion of their 2002 Super Bowl team as a backdrop, Adelson took an extensive look at the career – the amazingly still ongoing career – of the Buccaneers’ most-tenured player, getting reactions from many of his former teammates. Barber’s signature play, the NFC Championship-clinching interception in Philadelphia a decade ago, is discussed but Adelman has an interesting perspective on the past and the present of the defensive back’s career.
“The crazy thing is,” writes Adelman, “Barber is actually more valuable to the franchise now, at age 37, than he was when he helped them win the Super Bowl.”
As Adelman also points out, Barber wasn’t even included in a 2012 list on NFL.com running down the best 35-and-over players in the NFL, even in the “honorable mentions” section at the end, which included then-Saints kicker John Kasay. To be fair, the article was posted in May, before it was clear how impressively Barber would make the switch from cornerback to safety. Still, it is strange to think of the potentially Hall of Fame-bound player as still being underrated, given the growing weight of his career numbers. This is a player who has one of the top 10 streaks of games started in NFL history, has been to five Pro Bowls and soon may make it a sixth, and might soon be the founding member of the 50-interception/30-sack club. He’s at 46 and 28 right now, which is already the first 45-25 combo in league history.
Adelman says Barber shrugged that worry off when he spoke to the Buccaneer safety a few days after the Philadelphia game, saying “I’ve been underappreciated my whole life.”
The Yahoo! analyst clearly appreciates Barber’s strong play at a new position, as do the fans who made him the NFC’s top vote-getter at the free safety position over the last three months. Here’s Adelman on one of the subtler things that has made Barber one of the NFL’s best players over the last two decades, framed by a comparison with his twin brother, former Giants running back Tiki Barber:
“That’s the genius of Ronde, though. While he describes his brother as ‘big picture,’ Ronde is known in the Bucs locker room for one phrase: ‘See a little, see a lot.’ He is always telling fellow defenders to focus on one tiny part of the action, maybe the way a guard pulls or a tight end gets off the line, and use that to understand the entire offensive scheme. Tiki has always attacked the great big world out there, but Ronde has survived all these years in the league by focusing on the microscopic.”