Vet on the hot seat: Ronde Barber

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
When the door finally stopped swinging at One Buccaneer Place back in February, Ronde Barber was the only one of the old Bucs still standing inside.

The legend of all Tampa Bay legends, Derrick Brooks, was gone. So were Joey Galloway, Jeff Garcia and Warrick Dunn. Almost everyone with ties to the Tony Dungy era was gone. Even a lot of guys who came in under Jon Gruden were gone. Raheem Morris, 32, was taking over and just about everyone older than him packed their bags.

Except Barber, who is 34 and coming off a season that a lot of fans thought was subpar. But there's really only one opinion that matters in Tampa Bay these days and that's Morris'. He kept Barber around and there's a reason for that.

Morris believes Barber still can play. So does Barber. He hasn't been talking to the Tampa Bay media much these days and Morris has said it's because Barber is upset with suggestions that he's over the hill. That may be a good thing because it gives Barber something to prove and the Bucs might need that.

They're starting Aqib Talib on the other side. They've got Elbert Mack, a young prospect they're high on, but the other starting job still belongs to Barber and that might not be as bad a thing as many fans think.

Morris was the defensive backs coach last year and he knows Barber better than anyone. The fact is Barber did struggle last year, but not all of last year. He had some rough games early on, but he played well down the stretch.

If Morris thinks there's something left in Barber's tank, there probably is. But his age and the perception of fans means he's probably the NFC South player who is on the hottest seat (Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme draws honorable mention in this category) until he proves otherwise.