Barber, Gonzalez defying age

TAMPA, Fla. -- Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano has a reputation for being a hard-edged guy. Some of that’s probably deserved (see his defense when another team lines up in the victory formation), but sometimes Schiano shows another side to the media.

He’s been known to crack a one-liner or two. On Wednesday, Schiano even showed a sentimental side when he talked about Tampa Bay safety Ronde Barber and Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez.

“It’s amazing, we have one on our team and they have one on their team,’’ Schiano said. “It’s pretty neat that they are playing each other this weekend.

We all know that Barber and Gonzalez are veteran guys that still are producing at a high level. But until Schiano made the comment, I’d never really thought about what Barber and Gonzalez are doing in strictly numerical terms.

Schiano’s comment prompted me to look around the league at veterans. I’m not counting kickers, punters and long-snappers. I’m not counting guys like Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis, who is out with an injury and I’m not counting part-time role players, like Green Bay receiver Donald Driver. And I’m not counting Pittsburgh quarterback Charlie Batch, who hasn't been starting, but appears headed for playing time due to injuries.

I’m only counting position players that have been starting all or most of this season and my research shows that Barber is the oldest player in that category. He’s 37 and is two months older than Washington linebacker London Fletcher, who currently is dealing with an injury. Green Bay center Jeff Saturday, also 37, is No. 3 and Denver linebacker Keith Brooking, who turned 37 three weeks ago, is No. 4.

Gonzalez, who will turn 37 in February, is No. 5.

“When you look at what Tony does, he is really a fine player,’’ Schiano said. “You have to account for him. At that age, that is something.’’