By ROGER MILLS
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 14, 2000
TAMPA -- With the way the Bucs defense has played the past few years, winning weekly accolades has become passe.
But in back-to-back weeks? That's unusual.
Cornerback Ronde Barber, who had 21/2 sacks and returned a fumble 24 yards for a touchdown in Sunday's 41-0 win over the Bears, was named the NFC's defensive player of the week.
Linebacker Derrick Brooks received the award the first week after 16 tackles and forcing a fumble in the 21-16 victory at New England.
"It feels good, but I keep saying I'm a product of this defense," said Barber, 5-feet-10, 184 pounds and tied for the NFC lead with 31/2 sacks. "They put me in a position to make plays and I just made them. (Defensive coordinator) Monte (Kiffin) is a great coach and he trusts you. He trusts you enough to put you out on the field and he expects you to make those plays, and I just happened to make those plays last week."
Barber's stiffest competition may have been teammate Donnie Abraham, who had two interceptions and forced the fumble that Barber returned for the score. They shared a game ball given out by the coaching staff.
"I don't know how I would have voted on that," coach Tony Dungy said about the league award. "They both had outstanding games, but Ronde had a touchdown, which probably put it in his favor."
Abraham, who is one of Barber's close friends, said he didn't mind Barber nipping him for the league award and looks forward to winning his own.
"I'm happy for Ronde," Abraham said. "If it can work that way, I'll be happy for that. On this defense we have so many stars who play so hard, it's difficult to get one."
In his fourth year out of Virginia, Barber's quick start comes after a preseason in which he appeared to be battling for a starting position with nickel back Brian Kelly.
"I don't think we had any question marks (about my ability)," Barber said. "There was a question mark about which one of the two corners was going to start, and I'll call that a problem on the players' part, not one on the coaches' part."