Tampa Bay Buccaneers

AP Honors Barber, Brooks

Notes: Ronde Barber and Derrick Brooks are two of only 10 NFC players chosen for the AP All-Pro First Team…Plus, local PPK finalists and an offensive year in the NFL

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CB Ronde Barber won Associated Press First Team All Pro honors for the second time in his career

Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber have been Tampa Bay Buccaneer teammates since 1997, and between them they've earned six Associated Press All-Pro First Team honors. For the first time, however, they appear together on that squad.

Brooks and Barber were two of the 29 NFL players named to that exclusive squad on Thursday, marking the fourth such honor for Brooks and the second for Barber. In 2001, Barber won first-team honors while Brooks was a second-team selection; the next year, Brooks returned to the first team while Barber settled for second team honors.

This season, Tampa Bay's two selections for the NFC Pro Bowl squad were also two of the top defenders in the entire NFL, as judged by a national panel of 48 media members. Barber, in fact, was the leading vote getter among all cornerbacks attracting 17 votes while Denver's Champ Bailey and Philadelphia's Lito Sheppard got 15 each. Brooks was second at the outside linebacker position to Buffalo's Takeo Spikes, also drawing 17 votes.

Brooks' selection gives him four AP All-Pro first-team honors, tied for the most in team history with defensive tackle Warren Sapp. He has also been a second-team choice three times. Strangely, over the last five seasons Brooks has alternated spots on the first and second teams, winning top honors in 2000, '02 and '04 and secondary recognition in '01 and '03.

"I am very grateful and humbled to be selected as an All-Pro," said Brooks. "It is a very small light based on the season that we had, but I thank all of my teammates and also want to congratulate Ronde on this great honor. I am always pleased that people still think I am the best at what I do, and I will continue to try and prove it every year. Hopefully next year we can add another Super Bowl title and more Buccaneers to the All-Pro team."

Barber is the only Buccaneer cornerback ever to garner first-team AP honors (he was also a second-team choice in 2002). He and safety John Lynch (1999 and 2000) are the only defensive backs in team history to achieve that feat. In fact, prior to the 1993 season, the only first-team AP All-Pro selection in Buc annals was defensive end Lee Roy Selmon, in 1978 (though Selmon was the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1979).

"I want to thank my teammates and coaches for helping me to be part of this prestigious Associated Press All-Pro team," said Barber. "It is a great privilege to play with great players, especially guys like Brian Kelly and Greg Spires, who don't always receive the recognition that they deserve. That makes it even special for me and I am thrilled to be selected among the league's best players."

Tampa Bay, Philadelphia and Carolina were the only NFC teams to place more than one player on the AP All-Pro team. Philadelphia led the way with three (Sheppard, WR Terrell Owens and S Brian Dawkins), followed by Tampa Bay and Carolina (DE Julius Peppers and WR Muhsin Muhammad) with two each. Overall, there were only 10 NFC players chosen for the AP first-team squad.

Pittsburgh had the most selections in the AFC with three, while Baltimore, Indianapolis, Kansas City, New England and San Diego all had two.

Being named to the Associated Press All-Pro First Team is a very prestigious honor. Unlike the Pro Bowl, there are no AFC and NFC distinctions, just the best player at each position. There are only 27 spots available (two ties led to 29 winners this year), representing a normal 22 plus an additional inside linebacker or defensive tackle (the difference between 3-4 and 4-3 defenses), a second running back, a punter, a kicker and a punt returner.

Barber and Brooks were both very deserving candidates in 2004. They were the linchpins of a Buccaneer defense that finished fifth in the NFL in yards allowed.

Barber matched his 2003 total with 111 tackles, a record for Buccaneer cornerbacks and an extremely high total for that position. He also recorded three sacks, nine tackles for loss, three interceptions, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, 12 passes defensed and two touchdowns, both on fumble returns.

Brooks led the team with 172 tackles, marking his eighth straight season with more than 150 stops. He also compiled a career-high three sacks and picked off one pass to go with three tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and six passes defensed.

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Three Local Youngsters in PPK Finals

The NFL Punt, Pass and Kick National Finals will be held prior to the AFC Divisional Playoff Game in Pittsburgh on Saturday, January 15. This year, three local youths will be representing the Buccaneers in the national competition.

Morgan Ferrera, a Tampa native, will compete in the Girls 8-9 division, and Brooke Bursiek, from Cape Coral, will compete in the Girls 12-13 division. Boone Lewis, a resident of Melbourne, will compete in the Boys 8-9 division.

During the NFL regular season, approximately 3.5 million kids competed in the Punt, Pass and Kick competition. Local, sectional and team championship competitions were held in order to determine the 32 finalists who would compete for national honors.

Boys and girls compete separately in four age divisions, 8-9, 10-11, 12-13 and 14-15. The four highest scorers in each age division for boys and girls advance to the national competition. All participants and two guests are provided airfare, hotel accommodations and tickets to the AFC Divisional Playoff Game. An on-field award presentation for the winners of the national competition will be held between the third and fourth quarters of the game, which begins at 4:30 p.m. ET on CBS.

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Offense Wins Championships?

If you watch football for the offense, then you surely enjoyed the 2004 season immensely.

By some measures, it was the most exciting offensive season in league history, particularly in terms of the passing game. The NFL recently released some records and statistics to that effect, including these occurrences in 2004:

  • A record 732 touchdown passes were thrown. * Scoring was up and averaged more than 40.0 points per game (43.0) for the 11th consecutive season. * Twenty-four players scored at least 10 touchdowns, tying 1985 and 1995 for the most in history. * There were 788 points scored in Week 13, tying Week 1 of 2002 for the most ever in a weekend. * There were a record number of 100-yard rushing (179) and 300-yard passing games (81). * The league-wide season passer rating was 82.8 – the highest in history. And the league-wide completion percentage was another all-time high (59.8).

Buccaneers General Manager notices the shift to offensive prominence this year when he looks at his conference's playoff field. He mentioned the stricter enforcement of the five-yard 'chuck' rule as a possible contributing factor to this development.

"In previous years, you'd always say the top five defenses were going to be going somewhere," said Allen. "This year in the NFC, of the top five defenses there's only one team in the playoffs, but all five of the top offenses are in the playoffs in the NFC. I think there might be somewhat of a change.

"The five-yard rule has [led to] a very subtle change in the game right now. The teams that are getting first downs, the top four teams in the NFC that got first downs have all made the playoffs. The top four defenses, in which we were number two, in not allowing first downs did not make the playoffs. I think there are some subtle changes to this game that have fueled the rule changes that have been made."

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