Ronde Barber and Carson Palmer spent years in the NFL mastering familiar systems that helped them excel at their crafts.
Coaching changes in Tampa Bay and Oakland this offseason led to new roles for the two veterans that both feel have energized their careers.
After a bit of an early learning period, the two stars have regained that comfort level heading into today’s meeting in Oakland between Barber’s Buccaneers (3-4) and Palmer’s Raiders (3-4).
“I looked at it as a challenge, especially some of the new terminology,” Barber said. “But it was a fun thing to do, though. It took some time, obviously. ”
Barber has moved from cornerback in a defense that almost always featured two deep safeties that had become a staple for years in Tampa to safety in a more varied approach under new coach Greg Schiano.
With three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, a sack, a forced fumble and eight passes defensed the 37-year-old Barber has helped improve one of the league’s worst defenses a year ago.
“He absolutely flashes on film,” Palmer said. “He makes plays, he’s great in coverage. ”
Palmer’s change hasn’t been nearly as dramatic as Barber’s under new coach Dennis Allen and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp but has also been a success.
Instead of switching positions, he merely changed systems from the classic, drop-back passing game he was used to in Cincinnati and Oakland to a West Coast system that called on him to use more rollouts, ball fakes and short passes than he traditionally had employed.
The changes have worked well for Palmer, who has his highest passer rating in five years (85.7), is on pace for a career-high in yardage (4,437) and has a career-low interception rate of 1.9 percent.
“He understands where to deliver the football,” Barber said. “If you give him certain looks, he’s going to make the right reads. You got to expect that out of him. He’s not one to make many mistakes. Obviously we’re going to do our best to try to force him into them. He’s a 10-year guy now, so there’s not much that he, like me, hasn’t seen.”