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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Buccaneers DB Ronde Barber retires after 16 seasons

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Published:   |   Updated: May 9, 2013 at 12:16 PM
TAMPA -

Ronde Barber will not return to play a 17th season in the National Football League. Not with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, not with anyone.
 
The owner of what some consider the biggest play in Bucs history – a 92-yard interception return for a touchdown that sealed Tampa Bay's spot in Super Bowl XXXVII – Barber has decided to retire.
 
Barber acknowledged his decision late Wednesday in a one-word text message to The Tampa Tribune – “Yeah'' – in response to a request for confirmation of Internet reports he was retiring after 16 years.
 
Barber will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. today at One Buc Place.
 
“Yes, he's done,'' said Barber's broadcast and marketing agent, Mark Lepselter, president of Maxx Sports and Entertainment. “He's good with it. But we don't sit still. He can't sit still.''
 
As for Barber's future, Lepselter suggested fans can look forward to seeing Barber cover the NFL for a TV network when the 2013 season begins.
 
“We have had full in-depth discussions with some of the networks, and I fully expect Ronde to be in the NFL broadcasting business this coming season,'' Lepselter said. “We'll have more on that later.''
 
Barber, who spent most of Wednesday playing golf, according to Lepselter, contemplated retirement each of the past three years, but was all but guaranteed a starting position during those seasons.
 
The 2013 season figured to be much different for Barber. After moving from cornerback to safety last season, he was replaced as a projected starter earlier this offseason when the Bucs signed two-time Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson during free agency.
 
The Bucs said throughout the offseason they would welcome Barber back, but made it clear the decision was Barber's.
 
“We want him to make the right decision and not rush into anything,'' Bucs coach Greg Schiano said earlier in the offseason. “As I said all along, though, he was awesome for me and our team. He embodies what the Bucs are about.''
 
Barber, 38, was the last link to Tampa Bay's victory against the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII in January 2003. He retired after playing in more games for the Bucs (241) than any other player.
“Ronde is synonymous with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, establishing himself as one of our franchise's iconic players over a 16-year, Hall of Fame-worthy career,” Buccaneers co-chairman Joel Glazer said in a statement issued late Wednesday. “When anyone thinks of Ronde, they think of a true professional and leader. He approached every day the same, giving everything he had to make himself and his teammates the best they could be. We will miss him.”
 
A University of Virginia product, Barber came to the Bucs as a third-round draft pick (66th overall) in 1997. He played in only one game as a rookie, but started in nine games the next season and soon became a fixture in the lineup.
 
From that point on, Barber established himself as arguably the best slot corner in NFL history, earning five Pro Bowl nods and becoming the only player in league history with at least 40 interceptions (47) and 20 sacks (28).
 
In what could prove to be a Hall of Fame career, Barber had the most sacks by a cornerback in NFL history and was the first defensive back since the merger in 1970 to start each of his team's games for 12 consecutive seasons.
 
His 215 consecutive starts through the end of last season are the most by a defensive back in NFL history.
 
But of all the numbers Barber compiled during his career, the one he expressed the most pride in was 1,428.
 
That's the number of tackles he was credited with by the Bucs, and not only is it the most by a cornerback in team history it is an indication of Barber's versatility and playing style.
 
Though he was considered small even by a cornerback's standards, the 5-foot-10, 184-pound Barber spent a good portion of his career playing as a virtual linebacker, accumulating six 100-plus tackle seasons, including four straight from 2003-06.
 
“As a coach you're always looking for playmakers and Ronde Barber was a great playmaker,'' former Bucs coach Tony Dungy said. “Starting 215 straight games at any position is unbelievable, and with Ronde, that was no accident.
 
“It's about getting yourself ready to go and being in condition. Yes, you have to be fortunate to have a streak like that, but Ronde did everything he could do to have that kind of durability.''
 
As memorable as that streak was, Bucs fans are sure to remember Barber for the big plays he created – the most memorable being his 92-yard interception return of a Donovan McNabb pass to seal a 27-10 victory in the NFC championship game in January 2003.
 
“The enormity of that moment didn't hit me until later,” Barber said years later. “I remember the quiet of it and the guy in the right corner of the end zone who was talking trash before the game. I wanted to go right to him, but I didn't.”
 
He couldn't. There was work to do.
 
That play secured a spot in Super Bowl XXXVII, which Tampa Bay won easily, defeating the Raiders 48-21 with the help of two tackles from Barber, who was just getting started.
 
Over the course of his career, Barber established himself as one of the greatest big-time playmakers in team history, scoring 15 total touchdowns, the most by a Buccaneers defender.
 
Among his 14 regular-season touchdowns were eight interceptions, four fumbles, one deflected punt and one blocked punt.
 
Two of the touchdowns came off interceptions of McNabb on Oct. 22, 2006, making Barber the first player in team history to return two interceptions for touchdowns in the same regular-season game.
 
The last touchdown came just last season, when Barber returned a Brady Quinn pass 78 yards for a touchdown during a 38-10 victory against the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium.
 
One of his team-leading four interceptions for the season, the play was an indication that, even at 37 and playing a new position, Barber still had plenty left in the tank.
 
It is possible, though, that as this offseason grew longer, Barber began to feel differently. He often said he would continue only as long as he considered himself capable of playing at a high level.
 
“I don't know what it is, but I don't decline,'' Barber said prior to the start of last season. “As soon as I do, then I'm done.”
 

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