RB Warrick Dunn passed Tiki Barber and Eddie George on the NFL's all-time rushing list on Sunday
Running back Warrick Dunn rejoined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason after spending six years with the Atlanta Falcons, and Head Coach Jon Gruden has continually remarked at how much gas the 12th-year veteran has left in his tank.
Through five games of the 2008 season, Dunn has proved those remarks right, and his latest effort – a team-leading 11-carry, 74-yard performance in the Bucs' 16-13 loss to the Broncos – also earned him a significant personal milestone in an already-outstanding career.
In the second quarter, Dunn moved past Eddie George for 21st on the NFL's all-time rushing list, and his last carry of the day put him ahead of Tiki Barber into 20th place. Dunn now has 10,452 yards in his career.
As rewarding as that top-20 status is for Dunn, it was frustrating in that the moment came in a losing effort and therefore couldn't be enjoyed to its fullest. While Dunn did take a moment to reflect on his career and the personal achievement he reached on Sunday, he was also quick to point out that he is nowhere near hanging up his cleats just yet.
"I'm still playing," Dunn said. "I have a long season. I just hope I can play well and have a great year and that I can move up in the teens and you never know what happens. I think it's good just to be, in a sense, recognized. I've played a long time and I've done a lot of positive things, but right now I really just want to help this team win games. The milestone is good, but there's still a lot of football to be played."
Although it was that historic carry later in the game that moved Dunn up the all-time rushing list, the highlight-reel run of the day came earlier, in the first quarter.
Dunn took a handoff from the Bucs' 41-yard line and ran to the right – behind recently-returned starting right guard Davin Joseph – found a seam, broke a tackle and was then off to the races down the sideline. Although he was eventually chased down by a pair of Broncos defenders, the 38-yard run was the Bucs' longest play of the day and Dunn's longest run of the season.
"We went off the right side and I went through a little arm tackle and made a guy miss," Dunn said. "When I came to the sideline, guys told me [Broncos cornerback] Champ [Bailey] was coming up on my right side a little bit and he was trying to strip me of the football and was waiting 'til I extended the football to try to swipe at it. It was just a good play, good play-calling. That play was a successful play for us out there and a positive for our lineup."
Unfortunately, Dunn and the rest of the Bucs' running back weren't able to crack the end zone against a Denver defense that suddenly found some teeth on Sunday. After ranking near the bottom of the league in rushing yards allowed per game coming into the contest, the Broncos permitted the Bucs to rush for 139 yards on 22 carries, at a still-impressive 6.3 yards-per-carry clip.
"They were just aggressive," Dunn said of the Denver defense. "They didn't blitz a lot. The few times they did blitz, they were able to catch us, like the one time with the corner blitz down in the red zone. But I think we did a good job. Penalties really killed us. We cost ourselves momentum with just being able to move the football down the field with the penalties. We have to do better at that, but those guys played hard, they played aggressive and they made plays when it counted."
As Dunn and the rest of his teammates will now try to put a hard-fought loss in the mile-high Denver air behind them and focus on the division rival Carolina Panthers, the Bucs' veteran runner again paused to reflect on his milestone day, but also kept his eyes on the future.
"The people on that list are great, great backs," Dunn said. "Just to be in the company with those guys, I'm honored. It's an esteemed list of great guys, but there's still a lot of football left to be played."