Ronde Barber, John Lynch and Simeon Rice continue down the road to Canton, on Tuesday pulling to within two stops of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Barber, Lynch and Rice all remain candidates for the Hall of Fame's Class of 2020 after they were named three of the 25 semifinalists from among the 122 original candidates named in September. In January, that group will be further culled to 15 players and then the Hall of Fame Voting Committee will choose up to five of them for inclusion in the next class to arrive in Canton.
Lynch is a semifinalist for the eighth straight year, and in each of the past six years he has also made the cut to the top 15. Barber is a semifinalist for a third consecutive year. Both Lynch and Barber have been semifinalists every year they've been eligible. This is Rice's second time reaching the semifinalist stage, as he was also selected in 2017 for possible inclusion in the class of 2018.
Check out photos of Hall of Fame Semifinalist and former Tampa Bay Buccaneer CB Ronde Barber.
Of the 25 semifinalists, 14 are defensive players, including the Bucs' three representatives. Rice is one of three defensive linemen up for consideration along with Richard Seymour and Bryant Young. Barber and Lynch are among six defensive backs on the list, along with Steve Atwater, LeRoy Butler, Troy Polamalu and Darren Woodson. Polamalu is a first-year-eligible candidate.
Barber, Lynch and Rice were all Buccaneer teammates from 2001-03, 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 recorded five sacks, two by Rice, and set Super Bowl records with five interceptions and three pick-sixes.
Check out photos of Hall of Fame Semifinalist and former Tampa Bay Buccaneer S John Lynch.
Lynch's 11-year Buccaneer tenure began when he was drafted in the third round in 1993; he finished his career with four seasons (2004-07) as a Denver Bronco. He was named to the Pro Bowl following nine of those 14 seasons. Lynch has the rare honor of being named to the Ring of Honor for two different franchises, as he was given that honor by both the Buccaneers and the Broncos in 2016. Lynch is currently the general manager of the 10-1 San Francisco 49ers.
Barber was also a third-round draft pick by the Buccaneers, becoming Lynch's teammate 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.
Check out photos of Hall of Fame Semifinalist and former Tampa Bay Buccaneer DE Simeon Rice.
A former first-round pick in Arizona, Rice was a free agent acquisition in 2001 after he spent five seasons with the Cardinals. He ranks third in Buccaneers history with his 69.5 sacks, and his 122.0 career sacks are the third-most for any Hall-eligible player who is not already enshrined. He was the NFL's best pass-rusher for a sustained period, nearly a decade, as he led the league with 101.5 sacks from 1998 to 2005.
Lynch earned three first-team Associated Press All-Pro selections and one second-team choice to go with those nine Pro Bowl nods. Barber was an All-Pro five times, including three first-team selections, made five Pro Bowls and was a member of the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2000s. Rice was selected to three Pro Bowl squads and was an All-Pro four times, as well as the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1996.
Lynch is considered one of the hardest-hitting defenders in NFL history, and as a Buccaneer he earned the nickname, "The Closer," from Monte Kiffin for his penchant for game-sealing turnovers. Barber perfected his role in the Buccaneers' revolutionary Tampa Two defense, playing both on the outside and in the slot and adding 1,428 tackles to his interception and sack totals, a remarkable total for a cornerback. Rice reached double digits in sacks in eight different seasons and also recorded 28 forced fumbles, five interceptions and 43 passes defensed in his career.
Barber, Lynch and Rice all hope to join the three members of the Hall of Fame who played all or the majority of their careers with the Buccaneers: Lee Roy Selmon, Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks. Sapp and Brooks were also members of the 2002 Super Bowl team. Tony Dungy, who spent six seasons as the Buccaneers' head coach and seven at the helm of the Indianapolis Colts, is also enshrined in Canton. Four others who spent portions of their careers in Tampa are also Hall of Famers: Tim Brown, Randall McDaniel, Ron Wolf and Steve Young.