There was a time not too long ago when Ronde Barber would shut down half the field for the afternoon, just like present day Darrelle Revis and Richard Sherman.
Now? He still has the instincts and the ball skills, but he lacks the speed he once had. He’s allowed to decline, because that’s what athletic humans do as they grow older. Bodies age, and skills fade.
He’s embracing the football afterlife now, though, and retiring after 16 seasons.
Barber told Jay Glazer that he’s packing it in. The decision officially halts his streak of 215 consecutive starts, the most ever by a defensive back, and remarkably they all came with the same team after he was Tampa’s third-round pick back in 1997.
He moved to safety last year, a position where blazing speed in abundance isn’t an absolute must and Barber’s aforementioned field vision and instincts could be better utilized. His one season at the position ended in four interceptions (one of which was returned for a touchdown), and 91 tackles, with the latter his best total since 2006.
An old dog met a new trick, but next season Barber would have been a reserve at best after the Buccaneers signed Dashon Goldson, and then further fortified their secondary by trading for Darrelle Revis, and drafting Johnathan Banks in the second round.
He finishes with five Pro Bowl appearances, a shiny Super Bowl ring won in 2003, and a career total of 47 interceptions (his single-season high was 10 in 2001). In five years, we’ll begin the Barber Hall of Fame debate in earnest. If there’s any justice in this world, it’s a discussion that will go in his favor eventually, though he may have to wait a little longer than the minimum.