CB Ronde Barber, who has been such an excellent blitzer this season, gives credit to the scheme
When LB Derrick Brooks was selected as the NFC Defensive Player of the Week after the season opener, it led to some good-natured laughs in the Tampa Bay Buccaneer locker room. As it turns out, DT Warren Sapp, not Brooks, was the team's choice for a game ball after the Bucs' 21-16 win over New England.
On Wednesday, the award went to a Buccaneer player for the second week in a row. This time, at least, it was a player that received a game ball internally…CB Ronde Barber, who did have to share that team honor with his fellow cornerback, Donnie Abraham.
Together, the two were a force against Chicago, combining for 2.5 sacks (Barber), two interceptions (Abraham), two forced fumbles (one each), one fumble recovery (Barber), three passes defensed (Abraham) and one touchdown (Barber). It was likely only the performance of Barber that kept Abraham from winning his third Player of the Week award in the last two seasons.
The team was informed of the NFL's choice on Wednesday morning and discussed it with the media at noon. Some of the reactions:
Ronde Barber: "I guess our defense is doing something right right now. We're really products of our scheme. I keep saying that over and over again. Monte and Herm and T.D. have put together a great scheme and guys can make plays. Fortunately for us, the media and the nation is recognizing that.
"I split (the game ball) with Donnie. It's only right that Donnie got one from us, too, with two interceptions and a forced fumble that I scored a touchdown on. We recognize greatness on our team and I'm glad we could split it.
"We're corners that are willing to do the dirty work – tackle when we have to, re-route, not really play much man-to-man. We do the grunt work of a corner, and we're willing to do that. We have to learn to make plays in that situation because that's the only way we can survive in this league."
John Lynch: "Ronde's been a solid player for us. He's the sack leader in the NFL! He's got his contract coming and he's doing well for himself!
"We'd like to continue (the string of Player of the Week awards). We'd like to keep it going, but that's tough to do. It's tough to get game balls around here. The first week of the year, Derrick was Defensive Player of the Week and didn't get a game ball, and this week Ronde had to split one."
Warren Sapp: "That's the way we live around here. If you're going to stop one guy, then that opens up an opportunity for another guy to make a play. We just want to keep it going."
Donnie Abraham: "You just go out and play every day and good things will happen to you.
"I think he had an awesome performance. He deserves the player of the week award. The smallest guy on the field making plays – that's hard to do but he's been doing it for three years.
"We were doing the same things we've been doing since I've been here. Now that we're starting to get the turnovers, good opinions about us are coming out. We just have to keep it going.
"We're just playing aggressive football because that's our style of defense. I guess it's our time now because the ball is starting to bounce our way and we're starting to get lucky passes. We just have to go with the flow."
Tony Dungy: "I don't know how I would have voted on that one (between Barber and Abraham). They both had outstanding games. Ronde had the touchdown and that's probably what put it in his favor. But Donnie had a great game, too. Derrick Brooks did. We joke around here that sometimes it's tougher to get a game ball than it is NFC Player of the Week."