If Rodney Harrison didn’t make waves, he at least created a ripple last week when he said that making the New England Patriots’ Hall of Fame was more meaningful than reaching the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Granted, Harrison isn’t in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In fact, he’s never been a semifinalist. But he is in the Patriots’ Hall, named two weeks ago over finalists Richard Seymour and Mike Vrabel – an honor Harrison confessed meant “so much more to me.”
His explanation made sense. Yet it still baffled some listeners.
Ronde Barber wasn’t one of them. In fact, the former Tampa Bay defensive back shares the same sentiment.
Like Harrison, he was just named to his former team’s Hall of Fame – the Tampa Bay Bucs’ Ring of Honor. And, like Harrison, he’s not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Of course, he’s been eligible only two years and was a semifinalist in 2018.
Yet, like Harrison, it’s not the Pro Football Hall of Fame that Barber considers most meaningful, and that’s no disrespect to Canton. It’s more a tribute to the fans and community that watched him for 16 seasons and voted for him. Which is why he calls the Bucs’ Ring of Honor the “ultimate” achievement and Canton “the penultimate.”
Now, if all that sounds as if it needs an explanation, that’s why Ronde Barber is here.
“I’ve only been on the ballot for a couple of years,” he told the Talk of Fame Network, “but I think Rodney and I probably had the same vision of that (Ring of Honor) in the sense that the Pro Football Hall of Fame is the greatest honor you can possibly get … and we all want to be there if we have a career that puts us there.
“But you know how subjective it is, too. It’s like the Super Bowl Hall of Fame. It’s a bunch of writers who didn’t get to see me play for all 16 of my years and didn’t get to see Rodney play for all of his years (with San Diego and New England). But there’s a sense that when you go into your team’s Ring of Honor that the things that you did for that franchise are being rewarded.
“And you can use that for Rodney, too, because he played for multiple franchises. He’s going into the second team that he played for’s Ring of Honor, and (that means) he had that reverence amongst not only the owner and his teammates; but the fans recognize who he is. That’s what special about it.”
Barber is the 13th member of the Bucs’ Ring at Raymond James Stadium, joining contemporaries like Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, Jon Gruden and Tony Dungy. Sapp, Brooks and Dungy are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Lynch has been a finalist the past six years and a Top-10 finalist twice, while Gruden is still coaching.
That leaves Barber, one of only two defensive backs in the 40/20 club (40 or more career interceptions and 20 or more career sacks). Charles Woodson is the other, and he’s sure to reach the Hall when he becomes eligible in 2021.
And Ronde Barber?
“I’ve been retired for seven years now,” he said, “and I’ve told a lot of people this: It was inevitable that I was going to get into our Ring of Honor. It wasn’t like it was a question. It was just when it was going to happen. But the fact that it actually has happened now … I don’t need the validation … but everybody else has the validation now.
“When you walk into the stadium the name is sitting up there right beside Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, Jon Gruden and Tony Dungy. Malcolm Glazer, Doug Williams, Paul Gruber, LeRoy Selmon … There are some icons up there that I get to join. And, to me, those are the guys that I revered when I was here, playing with some of them and dealing with some of those guys before me. And to be sitting next to them now on the stadium (façade), that, to me, is the ultimate.
“The penultimate would be the Hall of Fame, in all honesty. Because there are a lot of people across the league that probably saw me play, I don’t know, a dozen times and would say, ‘Hey, he was probably a pretty good player if you look at his stats.’ Like, ‘Aw, man, he was a really good player.’
“But everybody here in Tampa, all the fans that I respect and love, they’re like: ‘This guy is our guy, and he’s going into our Ring of Honor … the Tampa Bay Bucs’ Ring of Honor. To me, it’s just a little bit more. It’s a great, great honor.”
Barber will be inducted into the Bucs' Ring of Honor during halftime of Tampa Bay's Sept. 22 game with the New York Giants.
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