Ronde Barber has not yet decided when he will retire from his career as an NFL football player, but he says he'll know when to walk away. When it comes to each individual time he steps on the gridiron, however, it's apparent that Barber doesn't know the meaning of the word 'quit.'
On January 1 in Atlanta's Georgia Dome, the veteran cornerback played in the 225th game of his Tampa Bay Buccaneers career, and his 224th game in a row. Early in the matchup with the Falcons, he suffered an arm injury that required the addition of a temporary cast. Given that his team was already trailing by several touchdowns; that young reserves were getting playing time all around him; and that the season would end several hours later with no playoff berth waiting, Barber clearly would have been forgiven if he headed to the locker room early. Instead, he finished the first half, playing as hard on his last snap as he did on his first.
That's the type of determination, will and courage that teammates notice. Thus, it was no surprise that Barber's own teammates voted him the winner of Tampa Bay's Ed Block Courage Award for this season. On March 13, Barber will be recognized at the 34th Annual Courage Award banquet in Baltimore, Maryland along with other winners from around the league.
"It is incredibly humbling to be selected by my Buccaneer peers for the Ed Block Courage Award," said Barber. "I've seen some truly great men who have dedicated countless hours to their community and to their profession win this distinction in the past. To be now mentioned in that group of great athletes is a priceless recognition."
The Ed Block Courage Awards, which are named after the longtime head athletic trainer of the Baltimore Colts, seeks each to honor those NFL players who exemplify the principles of sportsmanship and courage. Within each team, the winner is chosen solely by votes from the players themselves. Sometimes the award goes to a player who makes a triumphant return from a serious injury, as was the case with Buccaneers running back Cadillac Williams two years ago. Sometimes it honors a player who overcomes personal tragedy to make a difference not only on the field but in the community, as it did three years ago with kicker Matt Bryant. And sometimes it simply goes to a player who embodies such principles as professionalism, strength and dedication, and who serves as a role model not only to his teammates but to young people in the community.
Barber, obviously, is just such a player. Despite the Buccaneers' struggles in 2011, and despite the recent roster emphasis on youth, Barber produced another outstanding campaign this fall, his 15th as a pro. He, of course, played in every game, as he has every year since 1998, in the process setting an NFL record for cornerbacks with 199 consecutive games started. His 225th game in the season finale gave him one more than former Buccaneer great Derrick Brooks, who demonstrated many of the same qualities during his 14 seasons in Tampa.
Barber's 43 interceptions are the most in team history, and his 27.0 career sacks are not only the most among all active defensive backs, but the most by a cornerback in NFL history. He is the only player in NFL history to record 40 or more career interceptions and 25 or more career sacks, and was also the first player in NFL history to record 25 sacks and 35 interceptions. Barber is one of only four players in NFL history to record 20 sacks and 30 interceptions.
In Week Three of the 2011 season, Barber was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week after recording four tackles, one tackle for loss, one fumble recovery, one interception and five passes defensed, in a 16-13 win over Atlanta. The Player of the Week award was the ninth of Barber's career, including the postseason.
Ed Block was considered a pioneer in his profession as well as a respected humanitarian. The Foundation's efforts are supported by the NFL and the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society (PFATS). The inaugural Ed Block Courage Award was presented in 1978 to Baltimore Colts' DE Joe Ehrmann. Following the Colts departure from Baltimore in 1984, the scope of the Award expanded to include one player from every team in the NFL. For more information about the 34th Annual Ed Block Courage Award banquet, visit www.edblock.org.
"The Ed Block Foundation is one of the most admirable organizations in the country representing the interests of at-risk children," said Barber. "It is my pleasure to be mentioned in association of such a courageous cause. The character of this award speaks for itself, and I am immeasurably pleased to be representing myself and my organization with this honor."