Word out of Virginia is that 15th-year LB London Fletcher is dealing with an ankle injury suffered in the Redskins’ win over Philadelphia on Sunday, and that he could be a question mark for Washington’s quick-turnaround game Thursday against the Houston Texans.
That’s of little consequence to the Buccaneers, other than indirectly as it could weaken a team that is on the fringe of the NFC playoff hunt, but it is interesting in one regard. At the moment, Fletcher and Tampa Bay safety Ronde Barber share the NFL’s longest active games-played streak, at 234. Neither player has missed a game since the 1998 season opener, and neither player has ever missed an NFL contest due to injury.
Barber’s streak will roll on this Sunday when the Buccaneers take on the Atlanta Falcons at Raymond James Stadium. It won’t be any more or less impressive if it is no longer matched by Fletcher, but certainly a DNP for the impressive Redskin linebacker would draw some extra attention to Barber’s incredible longevity.
Barber’s overall totals stand at 235 games played and 226 games started, both all-time franchise records. His games streak began in his second season; he played in just one regular-season game as a rookie in 1997 as he absorbed Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin’s defense. His streak of consecutive starts dates back to 1999 and, at 209, is nearly 40 better than the previous record for NFL cornerbacks of 171 set by Dick LeBeau.
In fact, Barber’s 209th straight start in Sunday’s win at Carolina was yet another milestone for the Hall of Fame-bound defensive back, and there’s another one looming just a few days away. Here are the 10 longest starts streak in the history of the NFL:
|Player||Team(s)||Streak Years||Cons. Starts|
|1. QB Brett Favre||GB/NYJ/MIN||1992-2010||297|
|2. DE Jim Marshall||MIN||1961-79||270|
|3. C Mick Tingelhoff||MIN||1962-78||240|
|4. OL Bruce Matthews||HOU/TEN||1987-2002||229|
|5. G Will Shields||KC||1993-2006||223|
|6. DT Alan Page||MIN/CHI||1967-81||215|
|7. C Jim Otto||OAK||1960-74||210|
|8. CB Ronde Barber||TB||1999-2012||209|
|9t. LB Derrick Brooks||TB||1996-2008||208|
|9t. QB Peyton Manning||IND||1998-2010||208|
Barber just passed his long-time teammate, Derrick Brooks, and on Sunday will tie the Hall of Fame Raider lineman, Jim Otto. If Barber’s streak continues to the end of the season, he would end up tied for sixth with another Hall of Famer, former Viking DT Alan Page.
In terms of overall games played – a list that includes a lot of long-lived punters and kickers – Barber and London are both at 235 and are tied for eighth on the all-time list. Barber could surpass Mick Tingelhoff (240) by season’s end.
And Barber is certainly not just hanging on and padding his numbers. Though he is in his first season at a new position after 15 NFL years at cornerback, he is the NFC’s leading vote-getter for the Pro Bowl at free safety. He is tied for the Buccaneers’ lead with three interceptions in 2012 and, in Week One, was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week after scoring, incredibly, the 15th return touchdown of his career. He ranks fourth on the defense with 54 tackles and has added six tackles for loss, one sack, 11 passes defensed and a forced fumble.
In Sunday’s win over Carolina, Barber contributed four tackles, but one of them definitely stood out. Midway through the fourth quarter, with the Panthers holding a 14-10 lead, Carolina tried to convert a third-and-one with a Jonathan Stewart run to the left. In what has become one of his patented NFL moves, Barber timed a run blitz around the right edge of the defensive line perfectly and buried Stewart just after he took the handoff, two yards deep in the backfield.
Barber has plenty of other “signature” moves and accomplishments, of course. Chief among them, he is the only player in NFL history with at least 25 sacks and at least 40 interceptions (he currently stands at 28 and 46, respectively). Barber’s scoring touch is also legendary, and it’s no small thing, considering the position he played for so long that he also has nearly 1,400 tackles to his name.
Those numbers continue to grow as Barber continues to play game after game. At this point, he is not just the longest-tenured player in franchise history but one of the greatest Iron Men in the history of the game.