Ronde Barber didn’t know what to expect 22 years ago when he first arrived in Tampa as a rookie with hopes and dreams but no thought of the honor he will receive this fall.
“You don’t go in thinking you’ll ever do this,’’ Barber told the Talk of Fame Network this week after he was named the 13th member of the Bucs’ Ring of Honor. “It’s not on your radar.’’
Barber, who retired after the 2012 season, has been on the Hall-of-Fame’s radar for two years but has yet to join teammates Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks and former coach Tony Dungy in Canton.
He was a semifinalist in 2018 but, surprisingly, did not get that far this year, a slight softened by the Bucs’ adding him to its team Hall.
“These are the people who watched you every single day,’’ said Barber, who played 16 years in Tampa and isn’t kidding when he says “every single day.’’
Barber started every game the last 13 years of his career and didn’t miss a game in 15 years. That doesn’t mean he was never hurt. It means he refused to notice.
“I was different in that regard,’’ Barber said of his ability to play with pain.
But what about the pain of slipping backwards in the Hall-of-Fame selection process this year? Not a problem, he said.
“I understand that it’s subjective,’’ Barber said of the selection process. “Aeneas Williams told me to let my record be what it is. I know what I did. I am what I am.
"The Hall of Fame is awesome, but I never was a guy who said, ‘I want to be in the Hall of Fame.’ It’s an honor to be in the conversation.’’
Sadly, former Kansas City Chiefs’ head coach and long-time NFL defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham was also in the conversation this week after passing away at 72. Talk of Fame hosts Ron Borges, Rick Gosselin and Clark Judge called upon Chiefs’ team historian Bob Moore to recall the intensely passionate Cunningham’s years with the Chiefs, and one of his fondest memories was the kind you seldom hear unless you’re on the inside of the game like our guys are.
Moore recalled one day at training camp in River Falls, Wis., during a Presidential campaign when George Bush was traveling through Wisconsin and decided to pay the Chiefs a visit.
When his motorcade pulled up and Bush got out of his car the players quickly surrounded him. Bush was happy to see them, but the Secret Service took a different view when several of the players called out to Cunningham to come over and meet Bush.
“A couple of the guys started hollering, ‘Hey, Gunn! Gunn!’ Secret Service guys were all over us,’’ Moore recalled with a laugh. “Our players loved and respected him. They really cared about him.’’
Also visiting this week is long-time New York Jets' beatman Rich Cimini, of ESPN.com, to discuss the shocking deterioration of Mark Gastineau, who is battling Stage-3 colon cancer, early dementia and serious financial problems.
“He’s had a very turbulent life,’’ Cimini said. “He’s humbled now.’’
One guy who was once humbled by injury when it appeared he was heading for the Hall of Fame is Ron’s State Your Case subject this week. Borges raises the question of whether 1980s' all-decade defensive tackle Keith Millard has a case for the Hall.
Ron makes the full case but consider this one point: Millard's 58 career NFL sacks (plus 12 in the USFL in his only season there) tie him with Hall-of-Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy. The difference is Millard did it in 74 fewer games.
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