By Jeff Berlinicke
It happened all too early and all too often last season, the disastrous 5-11
campaign that kept the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of the playoffs for the second
The Bucs would be in the game, trying to let their defense keep it close until
the offense could conjure something, and then there would be a breakdown in the
The Bucs kept the pressure up front all season but the defensive backfield would
give up the big play.
One thing is for sure, though. You can't blame the corners.
Incumbents Brian Kelly and Ronde Barber held up their end of the bargain all
season and both are back for 2005, albeit a year older.
Barber is one of the best in the business and, even if he isn't pleased with his
contract situation, Barber is a fixture who won't be going anywhere, salary
headaches or not. At 30, Barber has a lot of football left in him while Kelly on
the other side is only 29 and healthy for the first time since last training
During the off-season, there was talk that barber might be a salary cap
casualty, but it was never seriously considered. Barber is the ultimate team
player, constantly reworking his contract for the good of the organization while
quietly getting the job done and representing the Bucs at the Pro Bowl.
Barber had three interceptions last season, and made 111 tackles, once again
ranking among the league leaders. He and Kelly have combined for 39
interceptions as a tandem.
Kelly, on the other side, is one of the more underrated Bucs. He struggled with
injuries last season and is usually lost behind Barber in the headlines, but his
steady play has been a constant with the Bucs since the Super Bowl year of 2002.
The Bucs also signed veteran Juran Bolden to play nickelback, where he played 13
games for the Jacksonville Jaguars last season.
The Bucs stayed put in the draft at defensive back, and will struggle in case of
any injuries, but the position is strong and safe. That's important because the
safety position is a mess.
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