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Barber bolsters bid for Pro Bowl berth

By ROGER MILLS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 27, 2001

TAMPA -- In one game, Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber went from having a good season to having a great season to a possible Pro Bowl appearance.

And the NFL helped his case when it named the fifth-year player the NFC Defensive Player of the Week after he had three interceptions and a touchdown return against the Saints on Sunday.

It is the second time this season Barber won the award. He also won it in Week 9 after his two interceptions helped lead the Bucs to a 20-17 win in Detroit.

"It's nice to get an award," Barber said. "I never had three picks in a game, that's for sure."

Barber, who signed a six-year deal this offseason, leads the NFL with nine interceptions and has a team-high 24 passes defensed. He has 84 tackles, trailing Derrick Brooks (145), Jamie Duncan (118) and John Lynch (104) on the team.

"The thing I notice about him was that he has great instincts, particularly when he plays the nickel, and he plays inside," defensive backs coach Mike Tomlin said. "He plays like a linebacker. He finds the ball and works his way in traffic and makes plays."

Considering that players voted for the Pro Bowl on Wednesday and coaches are expected to vote today, Barber's timing could not be better.

A number of his teammates, who are not allowed to vote for him, said they think Barber deserves a trip to Hawaii.

"If I was out there voting I would vote for him, and everyone that's watching, I hope they vote for him too," Brooks said. "He deserves it."

THE RAVENS HAVE AN OFFENSE?: Their reputation has been built on defense, and considering last season's efforts who can argue. But the Ravens haven't won nine games without scoring offensively.

The thing is, with the loss of running back Jamal Lewis in training camp, Baltimore has switched its offensive approach.

"They're a good offense," Bucs coach Tony Dungy said. "They are throwing the ball a little bit more than they were last year."

Entering Saturday's game, the Ravens offense is averaging 322.6 yards and has scored 29 touchdowns. A lot of that has come from passing. "(Receiver) Quadry Ismail (69 receptions, 992 yards and seven touchdowns) is making some big plays for them, and Shannon Sharpe is obviously a guy you have to look at," Dungy said. "Hopefully, we can get their running game under control and put some pressure on (Elvis) Grbac."

SPECIAL GUEST: As a sign of recognition for his act of kindness, the Bucs welcomed Boca Ciega High School sophomore Timothy Medeiros as a special guest at One Buc Place.

Medeiros came to the attention of the Bucs after he spent his savings of $900 to purchase 52 Christmas meals for people under the care of the Salvation Army. Medeiros, 15, who lost his father at age 10, had been under the assistance of the Salvation Army for many years.

He saved the money working at a gas station in St. Petersburg.

Medeiros, 15, watched practice and was escorted by Dungy on a tour of the locker room.

INJURY UPDATE: After two days off, the team returned to practice but several players watched from the sideline. Along with Barber, defensive tackles Warren Sapp (left shoulder sprain) and Anthony McFarland (left thigh bruise), safeties Eric Vance (right knee sprain) and David Gibson (right ankle sprain), running back Warrick Dunn (right turf toe), offensive guard/tackle Todd Washington (left knee sprain), kicker Martin Gramatica (right hamstring strain) and receiver Frank Murphy (right ankle sprain) sat out practice.

Murphy and Vance are the only two players likely to miss Saturday's game.

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