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Ronde Barber eventually will make Hall of Fame

"Don't be too smart!" former Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi used to yell when Tom Coughlin took unnecessary in-game risks early in his New York career. It was a core tenet of Accorsi's football strategy, inherited from Joe Paterno.

It's a shame Accorsi didn't pass that kernel on to Tiki Barber, who outsmarted himself by walking away from the NFL at age 31. It's easy to forget how dominant Tiki was at the time of his premature retirement, closing out his career with more than 1,900 yards from scrimmage in four of his final five seasons. Walter Payton is only player in NFL with more such seasons in his entire career.

In his book "The GM", author Tom Callahan notes that Accorsi called Tiki the "most remarkable back I have not only ever been with but that I have ever seen." Accorsi predicted that Tiki would go on to be the seventh Hall of Famer to toil under his watch.

It seems obvious six years later that Tiki will never have a bust in Canton, though his twin brother will. While there's little question Tiki enjoyed a more dominant peak, Ronde has compiled a more complete Hall of Fame resume.

Ronde was never the best cornerback in the league, but he played at a consistently high level throughout his 16 seasons.

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With 28 regular-season sacks and 47 interceptions, Ronde is the only member of the NFL's 25/40 club. His 199 consecutive starts at cornerback are the most in NFL history, and he's the only defensive back since the 1970 merger to start each of his team's games for 12 straight seasons. He's most proud of his 1,428 tackles, second only to Derrick Brooks in franchise history.

Ronde's 12 defensive touchdowns tie him with Charles Woodson and Aeneas Williams for third in NFL history, just one score behind the 13 of Rod Woodson and Darren Sharper. That total doesn't include Ronde's 92-yard touchdown in the 2003 NFC Championship game, often cited as the most important play in Buccaneers history.

The defining "Tampa 2" cornerback, Barber revolutionized the slot corner position against three-wide sets, excelling at blitzing, disguising pressure and anticipating a quarterback's throw. He has a rightful claim as the most instinctive player of his generation. A veritable player-coach in the latter half of his career, Ronde simply did the right thing on every play.

Ronde's Hall of Fame case initially will be overshadowed by Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and John Lynch. Voters might be hesitant to induct four players from a defense that won just one Super Bowl. Ronde won't be a first-ballot enshrinee, but his gaudy numbers eventually will carry the day.

As Ronde suggested at his retirement press conference Thursday, "I think my credentials speak for themselves."

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.

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