Bucs CB Ronde Barber returns for 15th NFL season
TAMPA - Five-time Pro Bowl cornerback Ronde Barber made it official Tuesday, agreeing to a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and declaring himself eager to return for his 15th NFL season.
Barber, 35, signed a one-year contract for 2011. Terms were not disclosed.
"My body is still able to do it one more time, so yeah, it wasn't that hard a decision to make,'' said Barber, one of the few veterans on the league's youngest roster. "After the season ended, they were still confident in me and I was confident in my play. It wasn't a drama-filled decision.''
Barber, the only member of the 2002 Super Bowl team remaining on Tampa Bay's roster, registered 102 tackles last season, ranking third on the Bucs. He also had three interceptions, one sack and a forced fumble as the Bucs improved by seven wins to 10-6.
"Every year, I go back with our coaches and evaluate my play,'' said Barber, who ranks second in franchise history to former linebacker Derrick Brooks in career tackles (1,260), games played (209) and games started (200). "The tape was really good. There were things they asked me to do this season which I had never done before … and I did them well.''
A third-round pick out of Virginia in 1997, Barber ranks as Tampa Bay's career interception leader with 40 and has scored 13 touchdowns. He is the only player in NFL history with at least 40 interceptions and 25 sacks.
"Obviously, we're still classified as a young football team, but we have different challenges now,'' Barber said. "Nobody is going to be surprised now if we play well.''
Barber doesn't appear overly concerned one of Tampa Bay's young defensive backs could displace him as a starting corner this fall.
"For the time being, I think I'm going back in as I left,'' he said. "And if one of our guys is able to beat me out, good for them. I've been able to maintain myself for 14 years in this league and it wasn't easy. Me and my friends kind of sit back sometimes and shake our heads at it, but if my play wasn't good, I wouldn't be sitting here in Year 15 with a new contract.''
Bucs head coach Raheem Morris, 34, often leans on Barber for advice and they share a strong bond.
"Raheem treats us with respect, like we're his peers,'' Barber said. "He tries to make the atmosphere around here as engaging and challenging as possible and our guys relate to him.''