Barber Torments Saints, Makes Statement To Gruden
Ronde Barber and Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks grew to know each other well during the two seasons their college careers overlapped at the University of Virginia. By all indications, Barber took better notes.

With three interceptions Sunday -- one coming at the goal line with 1:20 left to play in the Bucs' 10-3 victory -- Barber tormented his old college teammate and was also able to slip in a jab to Bucs coach Jon Gruden.

It was only a week earlier against Chicago that Barber let an opportunity get away. With an interception in his hands against the Bears, the ball came loose. Gruden spent a lot of time last week reminding his Pro Bowl defender of that fact.

"Gruden is good at that," Barber said. "He expects great things out of everybody. He does not like the perception that we can't do everything right. That was something I personally did wrong last week so he got on me a lot. He's walking down the hall and gives you an elbow in the ribs and says, 'Hey, can you catch a ball for me this week?' Just some subtle things."

But Barber got the last word. At least on Sunday. "The first thing he did was come over and spiked it on me," Gruden said. "Then the second one he spiked it on me. On the third one, I ran for cover. He's a guy who put the Buccaneers on the map. Now he's had a lot of help from a lot of Bucs who are not with us anymore, but he deserves a lot of credit for bringing this franchise back -- with plays like that. That's being honest."

Barber appreciates the honesty, but also wants to be factual. "I don't think he meant a literal spike," Barber said. "I think he was talking more of a verbal spike. Jon gives me some leeway to do that with him. I went over and told him not to mess with me anymore. I know what he expects from me, so we had some fun when I actually got my hands on the ball and held on to them."

It was the fourth multiple-interception game of Barber's career and first since Dec. 23, 2001, against the Saints, when he also had three. "You get very few opportunities to make big plays in football games," he said. "The one last week was going to stay on my mind. It was an opportunity early in that game against Chicago to really set the tone and probably change the outcome of that game. I was disappointed for a long time after that. But it is good to have something to fall back on."

Mick Elliott, The Tampa Tribune 5 December 2005