Tiki Barber: ‘Bucs Have Loved Winston From Day One’

Ronde Barber spent his entire 16-year career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was a five-time Pro Bowler, led the Bucs to a Super Bowl title in 2002 and retired as the franchise’s all-time leader in interceptions.

Needless to say, Barber knows the franchise inside and out and is one of the most beloved players in Bucs history. So if any outsider has any idea what Tampa Bay intends to do with the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, it’s him.

The No. 1 pick will almost assuredly involve a Heisman Trophy winner, but the question is, which one? It seemed a foregone conclusion that Tampa Bay would take Jameis Winston first overall, but recent reports have linked the Bucs to Marcus Mariota.

Which one will it be?

“He has a great relationship with (the Bucs),” Tiki Barber said of his brother, Ronde, on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “He’s told me since last year . . . (that) they have loved Jameis Winston from day one.”

There’s a lot to love about Winston: Heisman Trophy winner, national championship, pro-style offense, good size, strong arm and, yes, intangibles. Winston, love him or hate him, is one heck of a leader. As Tiki can attest, NFL head coaches want a quarterback who can come into a locker room and “have a personality,” who can be someone teammates rally around.

Winston is that guy.

“Jameis Winston is fun – and you hear it from every one of his teammates,” Tiki said. “They’ll tell you he’s the greatest dude they’ve ever been around. He’s jovial. He has a good time. He’s obviously a student of the game. I think a lot of people didn’t realize how intelligent and smart he was.”

Winston, for the record, got into Stanford, so while he’s made some questionable decisions off the field, he’s not necessarily unintelligent. In fact, he’s actually pretty bright.

Still, this may not be a black-and-white decision for Bucs brass.

“I don’t know if (Ronde is) sitting tight (with head coach) Lovie (Smith), but he knows ownership,” Tiki said. “And I think the questions about Jameis Winston off the field have been investigated and hashed out. His agent said Jameis Winston is the most investigated player in the history of the NFL Draft – and I don’t doubt that. He should be, to be perfectly honest. He should be the most investigated. Given the era that we live in, Jameis Winston should be the most investigated player in NFL history because he’s likely to go No.1 and be potentially a franchise-changing quarterback.”

Yes, and while Mariota might be a safer pick from a maturity and behavioral standpoint, safe picks typically don’t win Super Bowls. Brandon Tierney feels that Tampa Bay, which hasn’t made the playoffs since 2007 or won a playoff game since 2002, can’t afford to be safe.

“I think you’re right,” Tiki said. “And I like Marcus Mariota. I believe that you can teach him. The question becomes, if you take the safe pick – and I hate to refer to him this way, but he is, especially compared to Jameis Winston when you look at the potential upside – do they have enough talent . . . (around him) to actually (win a Super Bowl) with a safe quarterback?

Tierney says no.

“I would say no, too,” Tiki said.

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