With two weeks remaining in the fans' portion of the Pro Bowl balloting process, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Ronde Barber is still the NFC's leading vote-getter at free safety.
In the next week, teams across the NFL will collect and submit an aggregate ballot fom both their players and their coaches. The players' and the coaches' results will then be combined with the fans' selections to pick the teams for both conferences. The NFL is the only professional sports league that uses this three-pronged process to select its annual all-stars.
Fan voting on NFL.com began in October and will conclude next Monday, December 17, as soon as the Monday Night Football game between the Jets and Titans is over. The player and coach ballots will be collected on December 20-21 and the teams will be announced on the NFL Network's Total Access show on Wednesday, December 26 at 7:00 p.m. ET.
Thus, the voting update released by the NFL on Tuesday represents only one third of the selection process but does give a strong indication that Barber has made an instant impact in his first season playing safety. He previously earned five Pro Bowl nods as a cornerback.
Barber has indeed been very productive at his new position. He is the team leader with four interceptions, which he has returned for 160 yards and a touchdown. He leads the NFL in average yards per interception return (40.0) and has also broken up 12 passes, recorded one sack and forced a fumble. Just as he was known for at cornerback, Barber has also been an important part of the team's top-ranked run defense, ranking third on the team with 77 tackles and adding tackles for loss.
If Barber does earn his sixth trip to Hawaii this February, he will become the first Buccaneer ever to make the Pro Bowl at two different positions.
Buccaneer fans can continue to submit their votes for Barber for five more days, and just as importantly, they can support several other deserving Tampa Bay plays in their own quests for all-star recognition. The Buccaneers have quite a few players they would likely consider Pro Bowl worthy, and this is not intended to back any specific team members over others. However, it is worth noting that a handful of Buccaneers rank very high in some of the NFC's statistical categories.
- RB Doug Martin ranks first in the NFC with 11 touchdowns, second with 1,616 yards from scrimmage and third with 1,234 rushing yards
- WR Vincent Jackson ranks first in the NFC with 20.4 yards per catch, third with 1,145 receiving yards and fifth among wide receivers with eight touchdowns
- QB Josh Freeman ranks third in the NFC with 25 touchdown passes and sixth with a 91.1 passer rating
- DE Michael Bennett is tied for sixth in the NFC with 9.0 sacks, is first among defensive linemen with 8.5 run stuffs and is tied for first with 11.5 QB hurries
- LB Lavonte David is fifth in the NFC with 117 tackles and first with 13.5 tackles for loss
- P Michael Koenen is first in the NFC with 53 touchbacks on kickoffs and first with a 71.6 touchback percentage
- K Connor Barth is second in the NFC with six field goals made of 50 or more yards
Only five days remain to cast your Pro Bowl ballots and help these and other Buccaneers. Vote here.