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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Ronde Barber says Bucs will be tighter ship in 2012

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 02:28 AM
TAMPA -

Ronde Barber caught himself in a slight language slip Wednesday, a mistake that could serve to illustrate the culture change new head coach Greg Schiano is bringing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Tampa Bay's mainstay at cornerback turns 37 on Saturday and he signed a one-year contract last week to return for a 16th NFL season.

Barber said the addition of three veteran free agents – wide receiver Vincent Jackson, Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks and cornerback Eric Wright – is "huge'' for the Buccaneers and he talked about meeting with general manager Mark Dominik and Schiano before deciding whether to come back for the 2012 season.

"I got together with Mark and Greg, or coach Schiano I should say, and we had a conversation,'' Barber recalled at team headquarters Wednesday as the Bucs continued their voluntary conditioning drills.

Schiano's predecessor on the Tampa Bay sidelines, Raheem Morris, was often referred to as "Rah'' by players. Barber indicated a new coaching staff has wasted little time setting a new tone.

"They have a very direct purpose,'' Barber said. "The ship's a little bit tighter than it was last year, but that's a good thing. We needed direction. We have a bunch of young men that need guidance and (Schiano) is giving it to them. He's very direct about it and I think that's the way it should be. I like the approach and I think it'll work well for us.''

Barber will take an NFL-record streak of 199 consecutive starts at corner into the 2012 season. He didn't discount the possibility he'll be asked to play some safety in the fall as the Bucs effort to get their best defensive backs on the field.

"I did that a couple of years ago,'' Barber said. "I'll fit in where I fit in. They know I'm here to help this team win … no matter what that role is.''

With the fifth overall pick in the draft later this month, the Bucs could select LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne.

"I'm no stranger to competition at my position,'' Barber said. "I'm not scared of that. They've been trying to replace me since '98. I welcome that. At the very least, it makes me better.''

Barber, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, talked about how Jackson's 6-foot-5 presence will impact opposing secondaries.

"I didn't know he was that big,'' Barber said. "He gives us some serious credibility at the position, not that Mike (Williams) and (Arrelious Benn) didn't do that last year, but they're both young players and this guy's proven. There's a certain fear factor when you play against guys like Vincent Jackson. As a defensive back, you know one way or another, they're going to find a way to get him the ball.''


ikaufman@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7833

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