Ronde Barber has started down the road to Canton once again.
On Wednesday, Barber was named one of 28 semifinalists for the Hall of Fame's Class of 2023, as has become customary. Barber was a semifinalist in his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame during its lead-up to the Class of 2018, and he has now repeated that status for six straight years.
Barber has also been named a finalist in each of the past two Hall of Fame cycles and is a strong candidate to be among that group of 15 again this year. The Hall will announce the finalists in January and if Barber is included he will have a chance to become the fifth player enshrined in Canton who played all or most of his career with the Buccaneers. The other four are Lee Roy Selmon, Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp and John Lynch.
Barber, Brooks, Lynch and Sapp were Buccaneer teammates from 1997-03, a stretch that included the franchise's dominant victory over Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII. That championship came at the end of one of the best seasons for any defense in NFL history, as the 2002 Buccaneers allowed only 12.3 points per game and racked up 43 sacks and 38 takeaways. In the Super Bowl, the Buccaneers set Super Bowl records with five interceptions and three pick-sixes.
Barber was a third-round draft pick by the Buccaneers in 1997. He would spend his entire NFL career in Tampa, setting franchise records for games played (241), games started (232), interceptions (47) and defensive touchdowns (14). He started 215 consecutive games to end his career, including an NFL record 200 straight at cornerback. Barber is the only player in league history to record at least 45 interceptions and at least 25 sacks.
Barber's 14 non-offensive touchdowns rank fourth in NFL history. According to Pro Football Reference, his 1,177 career tackles are the most ever by a cornerback. Barber helped revolutionize the nickel corner position during his long career, excelling in coverage, run support and blitzing out of the slot. His 16 seasons of unfailingly high-level play were rewarded with five Pro Bowl invitations and five Associated Press All-Pro selections, including three on the first team.