Buccaneers’ Shaq Barrett is trying to do something no defensive player has done since 1986

Shaquil Barrett has been handsomely rewarded this year, earning a Super Bowl title before inking a four-year, $72 million contract to stay with the Buccaneers. But don’t count on the Pro Bowl pass rusher resting on his laurels this fall. Joining NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” Tuesday, Barrett said he’s aiming to do something no defensive player has done in nearly four decades: win MVP.

“As a team, (we’re) just trying to put the work in so we can be able to end up in the same position we were the last year,” Barrett said, per NFL.com. “Me personally, I’m trying to do something that’s never been done as a defensive player. I want to win MVP, I want to win Defensive Player of the Year. Like, I’m hungry for everything. Every accolade, every award, individually and as a team. I’m expecting real big things from myself this year.”

Two defensive players, actually, have won NFL MVP since the Associated Press began issuing the award in 1957. But both anomalies occurred well before Barrett, 28, was even born. Former Vikings defensive tackle Alan Page became the first defender to claim the top honor in 1971, and longtime Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor is the most recent to win MVP, in 1986. Page unofficially logged nine sacks, two safeties and a whole lot of quarterback pressures for Minnesota’s “Purple People Eaters” defense — widely considered one of the best ever — during his MVP run. Taylor, meanwhile, led the NFL with a career-high 20.5 sacks to take the award.

Unlikely as an MVP award may be, Barrett is no stranger to gaudy numbers. The former undrafted Broncos reserve exploded for an NFL-leading 19.5 sacks, as well as six forced fumbles, as a first-time starter with the Buccaneers in 2019. His sack total dipped to eight in 2020, but he added another four in the playoffs to help Tampa Bay claim the Lombardi Trophy, bringing his combined regular-season and postseason sack total to 31.5 over two seasons with the Bucs.

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