Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Cornering the Market

Bucs CB Ronde Barber was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week, keeping that honor in Tampa for the second straight week

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CB Ronde Barber, at 5-10 one of the smaller Buc defenders, has stood tall on the league's most ferocious defense

It wasn't much of a race, really. In the least shocking outcome since, oh, Reagan over Mondale, Tampa Bay Buccaneer CB Ronde Barber was named NFC Defensive Player of Week Two on Wednesday.

With 98% of the precincts reporting, Barber's 2.5 sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one touchdown against Chicago last Sunday was deemed the best performance by a defensive player in the conference. It marks the second straight week that this award was taken home by a Buccaneer; in Week One, LB Derrick Brooks had 16 tackles, a forced fumble and a pass defensed against New England to gain the honor.

Actually, Barber's closest competitor for this week's award may have been just 40 yards away, laterally. Donnie Abraham, who starts opposite Barber on the left side, had two interceptions and the forced fumble that led to Barber's 24-yard touchdown return in the Bucs' walloping of the Bears. The team, it should be noted, made a joint 'game ball' presentation to their two nonpareil corners on Monday.

This is actually Barber's second Player of the Week award; he has won one each time he has scored a touchdown against Chicago. In Week 13 of 1998, Barber helped the Bucs defeat the Bears, 31-17, at Soldier Field by scooping up a deflected punt and weaving through traffic for a 23-yard touchdown return. He was recognized for that effort with the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week award.

Barber made that play in Chicago during a long second-half stretch in '98 in which he emerged as a big-play maker. In just two weeks, he has gone a long way towards re-establishing that image in the year 2000. Barber's 3.5 sacks is tied for the league lead and he has nine tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pass defensed in two games.

"He's leading the NFC in sacks," said Head Coach Tony Dungy in bemused amazement. "He's ahead of Bruce Smith and Kevin Carter right now. I don't know if he can keep that pace going. He's done a great job of timing, and utilizing the blitzes the coaches have put together. He's made a lot of things happen."

This is the first time in two years that one team has had two consecutive Defensive Players of the Week. In Week 10 of 1998, the honor was bestowed on Atlanta DE Chuck Smith, and Week 11's award was given to Smith's teammate, CB Ray Buchanan.

In the last 19 weeks that the Buccaneers have competed, including two postseason games last January, one of its players has been chosen as the NFC's top defender. DT Warren Sapp got that streak going with the honor in week two of last season, followed by Brooks in week seven, Abraham in weeks 11 and 13 and DE Steve White in the divisional playoffs round.

For reaction to the award from the Bucs' locker room, please click here.

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