Peyton Barber’s story is one perfectly made for Hollywood — a tale of hope, disappointment, determination and success. The rookie from Auburn came out of school early because his mother was homeless and he wanted to make some money to take care of her. But he went undrafted, then he was cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before landing on the practice squad.
Now on the active roster, the reserve running back had his best day as a professional Sunday by rushing for 84 yards and his first NFL touchdown in Buccaneers’ 34-17 victory at San Francisco. Now Barber is up for the Pepsi Rookie of the Week honors.
Barber is up for the award along with Chicago’s Leonard Floyd, New Orleans’ Michael Thomas, San Diego’s Joey Bosa and Cleveland’s Emmanuel Ogbah.
It is in movie-like fashion that Barber is even on the active roster for the Buccaneers. First, Pro Bowl rusher Doug Martin went down with a hamstring injury and suffered a setback a week before he was scheduled to return. Then, Charles Sims’ suffered a knee injury and was placed on injured reserve.
Even on Sunday, Barber was one of three running backs along with starter Jacquizz Rodgers and Antone Smith who was recently signed. Barber made the most of his opportunity, which made the entire organization happy.
“Yeah, I think (running backs coach) Tim Spencer did a really good job of subbing our backs (Sunday),” said head coach Dirk Koetter. “We had some certain special plays tagged for Antone, just because he hadn’t been there quite long enough. And then we just went intermittently in some series – Tim was subbing Peyton in there.
“It’s like anything else, though. When those other guys go in there, they have to be productive. If they’re not productive, then shoot, as a play caller I’m going to be saying, ‘We’ve got to get ‘Quizz’ back in there.’ But I think that was important and it was real gratifying to see Peyton get that touchdown run in the fourth quarter.”
That touchdown capped off a 34-3 run by the Buccaneers in the final three quarters of the game and was the highlight moment of Barber’s season thus far. Although this is not over, life can resemble a movie.
One tough rookie
Another rookie who earned some kudos from the San Francisco game is rookie defensive end Noah Spence. The second-round pick out of Eastern Kentucky had his best game as well with a sack, two quarterback pressures and a pass deflection. He did this while still dealing with a shoulder injury that he has played with the last two weeks.
Only Will Gholston and Gerald McCoy played more snaps among defensive linemen than Spence did on Sunday. For the season, he has two sacks and three quarterback hurries and is showing why the Buccaneers made him one of their top picks.
“Noah played (42) snaps, got a sack there at the end,” Koetter said. “I would still say Noah — we’re happy with him and he entered the season as kind of a specialist, more of a pass rush specialist, but he’s having to play more as an every-down defensive end because of our injuries. I think he’d still fit in the learning category. He still makes some mistakes that a young player is apt to make, but he likes to play ball and he gives really good effort. And as long as he keeps learning and keeps improving, the future’s bright for him.”
On Sunday, the Buccaneers face another West Coast team they haven’t had much success against when they take on the Oakland Raiders. The Buccaneers are 2-6 vs. the Raiders in regular-season play, although one matchup will forever be the key highlight of the franchise.
The Buccaneers defeated the Raiders 48-21 to win Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego. Tampa Bay also won its last meeting against Oakland, a 42-32 victory in California in 2012. This will be the first of three straight home games for the Buccaneers.
It has been a wild week for receiver Donteea Dye. First, he was signed to the Buccaneers’ practice squad early last week before being promoted to the active roster. Then before the team’s game at San Francisco, Dye was cut.
On Tuesday, the club brought Dye back to the practice squad.