“And to have somebody really just dismantle us in five minutes kind of showed some weakness on our part, and for whatever reason it snowballed into not a very good season. … You don’t ever want to say you lose your swagger, but we definitely didn’t have the same demeanor or didn’t display the same demeanor after that loss.”
To this day, Barber finds it difficult to watch highlights of that game.
Still, it’s not the only painful primetime memory for the 15th-year pro, who’s the only player in NFL history to have at least 40 interceptions and 25 sacks in his career.
Three years ago, Tampa Bay took a 9-3 record to Carolina for a Monday night game with first place in the NFC South on the line.
The Panthers pounded the defense for 299 yards rushing, handing the Bucs a lopsided loss that began a four-game, season-ending slide that helped keep the team from the playoffs and also cost former coach Jon Gruden his job.
“They steamrolled us,” Barber said. “I was as embarrassed as I’ve ever been.”
Monday night will be Tampa Bay’s first primetime game since then.
With 23-year-old Josh Freeman blossoming at quarterback and just three players who are 30 or older, the Bucs have a promising future.
And Barber, whose streak of 187 consecutive starts is the longest among active players, wants to be part of it. He has his 41st interception and also recovered a fumble during last week’s 16-13 victory over Atlanta, earning recognition as NFC defensive player of the week from the league.
When the league announced its weekly honors, the coach changed his mind.
“All the things he does on the field for us, he’s special. He’s one of those figures that for us has just been unbelievable,” Morris said. “He’s Cal Ripken … Derek Jeter, whoever the case may be. He’s all that for us.”
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