© St. Petersburg Times, published January 8, 2003
TAMPA -- Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber went from expecting to face the Giants -- up 38-14 in the second half Sunday -- to the shock of preparing for the 49ers.
What made the change sting was watching his twin brother, Tiki, who rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown and had 62 receiving yards in the losing effort.
"The Giants killed me," Ronde Barber said of the second-greatest collapse in playoff history. "I could go on forever about them. Nothing went right."
So instead of facing his brother for the first time in three seasons -- they played against each other in 1998 and 1999, splitting the two meetings -- he was playing catch up preparing for a team the Bucs haven't faced since 1997.
"San Fran was the one we didn't think we were going to play, to tell you the truth," Barber said. "I didn't get on San Fran really until (Monday). But they're a great football team. ... They're on top of the world right now, at least in their heads. Twenty-four points in a quarter, that's uncalled for if you ask me."
GLOATING, A LITTLE: Punter Tom Tupa and tight end Rickey Dudley had bigger smiles than usual when the Bucs returned to practice, thanks to their alma mater, Ohio State, winning a national championship with its double-overtime victory over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl.
"Everybody talked about how Miami was going to roll all over them," Tupa said. "They came out and the defense was just ridiculous, and the quarterback played unbelievable, too. I thought if Miami didn't play their best and Ohio State played a good game, it'd be close."
Dudley got his share of handshakes and high-fives from teammates and coaches.
"I'm proud of those guys -- they worked hard all year long, and it made a lot of former Buckeyes proud," he said.
The two Buckeyes said they took it easy on former Hurricanes Warren Sapp and Nate Webster and said they'd let the scoreboard speak for itself. That might not have been the case from the resident Miami alums in the weeks leading up to the game.
"What do you think? You know Warren," Tupa said. "It was nice coming in here that way."
Said Dudley: "They talked a little bit earlier, but I'm not a bragger. We won, and that's all that matters."
FOREWARNED: A rare chance to sit back and watch a weekend of pro football was well-timed for the Bucs, who said Sunday's comebacks by the Steelers and 49ers -- two of the six biggest in playoff history -- were a reminder of what lies ahead.
"I think a lot of lessons were to be learned from watching football this weekend. Most of all that you're never too far ahead or too far behind," Pro Bowl safety John Lynch said.
One lesson the Bucs need a refresher in is facing the 49ers. Lynch is one of only seven players on the roster who played against the 49ers in that 13-6 August 1997 win.
The rest? Mike Alstott, Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Al Singleton, Shelton Quarles and Karl Williams. Barber was on the 53-man roster as a rookie but was not activated for the game.