Bucsblitz.com's Matthew Postins has the complete breakdown on the Bucs' 53-man roster. Which cuts surprised and how could this roster translate to regular-season success? Postins breaks it all down in this new article. Get the exclusive right here.
Refer to Tampa Bay's cornerback Ronde Barber as an "elder." Point out that he's about to start his 12th year in the NFL. Call him a veteran. Barber doesn't mind.
Just stop asking him if he's going to retire, as his twin brother, Tiki, did after the 2006 season.
"I'm not retiring," the cornerback said. "If I was I wouldn't be up here talking to you guys. I have no interest in retiring yet. I don't have a lucrative NBC deal set up as of yet."
Eventually, Barber said, a younger player will take his place. He considers it part of his job to "pass on some knowledge" to them.
He's already working to do that with first-round pick Aqib Talib, and no doubt Barber will have some influence over Elbert Mack the rookie who recently surprised many by claiming a roster spot as an undrafted free agent.
"I was a third-round draft pick that was lucky enough to stick around (in 1997)," Barber said. "I struggled mightily for whatever reason. I just wasn't able to adapt. I didn't know what it was to be a professional."
Those days are long behind Barber now. He's the only cornerback in NFL history to record 20 career interceptions and 20 career sacks. And each of the past two seasons, just when some begin to write Barber off, he reminds us that he's more than capable of having an impact.
His two interceptions for touchdowns against Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb in 2006 fueled one of the Bucs' few victories that season. Last year Barber's interception against Washington helped seal a victory. His 33 interceptions is now tops in Bucs history.
Barber said he's trying to show Talib — now considered the Bucs' nickel cornerback — how to be professional and take the game seriously.
"When you're young and you have opportunities and a lot of money in your pocket, sometimes football doesn't seem like it's important. It's a job and it's only temporary," Barber said.
Barber's influence can only help. The four-time Pro Bowl pick is known for meticulously preparing for each game, a habit that started in college.
"I won't go into anything unless I'm prepared. That's just not football-related, that's anything I'm doing," Barber said. "I need to have all of my T's crossed and I's dotted and that's the way I've always been. It has to (give me an edge). Fortune favors a prepared man. It's something I definitely believe in."
He also believes this is the best Bucs secondary he's played with. Barber admits it's tough to top the 2002 team with its field of great players, but says "talent-wise across the board and depth-wise we've never been better. I don't think there's a question about it. So, that being said we have a lot of expectations on ourselves. If we don't live up to them we'll all be disappointed."
Along with rookies Mack and Talib, the Bucs will start veteran Phillip Buchanon opposite Barber. The Bucs also kept five safeties on their current roster — starters Jermaine Phillips and Tanard Jackson, and backups Eugene Wilson, Sabby Piscitelli and Will Allen.
And with the Super Bowl being held in Tampa Bay this season, the phrase "Super Bowl" can be overheard in the Bucs locker room. No NFL team has played in the Super Bowl the year their city has hosted the game.
But, Barber said, teams should be talking about winning it all.
"If there is a team that says they don't want to win a Super Bowl, then they shouldn't be a team," he said. "There's only one thing you strive for every year and that's to be the best in your league."
The journey starts on Sunday.