NFL Nation: Tiki Barber

We've only talked in passing detail about Adrian Peterson's attempt to chase Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record for a second straight season -- probably because there's been so much chatter about the topic in other places. Whether it's Peterson talking about wanting to run for 2,500 yards or experts saying he can't possibly duplicate last year's 2,097-yard season, the topic has been a frequent source of conversation heading into the season.

We won't belabor the point here today, other than to mention a couple unique things about Peterson's 2012 season that might, in fact, be unique -- as in, they can't be duplicated again.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Peterson ran for 1,019 yards after contact in 2012, for an average of 2.9 yards a carry. In other words, nearly half of Peterson's yards came on his ability to take a hit and keep running for an average of almost 3 yards. Essentially, after he took a hit last year, he was still better than the Raiders' Rashad Jennings, who ran for 2.8 yards a carry -- with or without contact! -- in 2012. And only one running back in the league -- Maurice Jones-Drew, with 785 yards after contact in 2011 -- has even come within 250 yards of Peterson's total since Stats & Information started tracking the statistic in 2009.

From 2009 to 2011, Peterson's post-contact average was 2.3 yards per carry. If he carried the same number of times in 2013 as he did in 2012 (348) and dropped back to his 2009-11 average, he'd run for 219 fewer yards. If we add the 2012 season back in, bumping Peterson's average after contact back up to 2.49, and assume he hits that figure this year on 348 carries, he'd run for 152 fewer yards.

Then there's this: Peterson had 27 runs of 20 yards or more in 2012. That was the most in football last year by 15. Since 2008, only five other running backs have even recorded half that many long runs, one of them being Peterson himself in 2008.

We can all remember the highlights of Peterson breaking one tackle and busting loose for 60 or 70 yards. If he can't do that with the same regularity this year, he'd have to find another way to make up for those yards -- most likely by getting more carries or increasing his productivity on his shorter runs. Considering he had the second-most carries of his career last year, and his highest yards-per-carry figure, it seems unlikely to expect Peterson to put up even bigger numbers without the efficiency afforded by a 70-yard romp.

Finally, we've got to consider this point: Of the 18 men in NFL history to carry more than 300 times in a season and average more than five yards a carry, only two -- Barry Sanders and Tiki Barber -- did it in back-to-back years. Sanders actually crossed the 2,000-yard plateau in his second trip over the 300-and-5.0 barrier, when he ran for 2,053 yards on 335 carries (an average of 6.13 yards per attempt) in 1997. And Barber did it at ages 30 and 31, when he averaged 5.21 and 5.08 yards per attempt in 2005 and 2006. But considering Peterson's 6.03 yards per attempt tied O.J. Simpson for the second most of anyone who carried more than 300 times in a season, it probably isn't realistic to expect him to do it again. No running back in history has ever crossed 1,500 yards a year after running for 2,000, and the drop-off in yards-per-carry is part of the reason why.

In all likelihood, topping Dickerson would likely require even more carries than Peterson got last year (Dickerson, it should be noted, carried 379 times when he set the record in 1984). When the Vikings drafted Cordarrelle Patterson and signed Greg Jennings in an effort to balance their offense, it's worth asking whether Peterson's workload might even drop this year.

After watching Peterson last year, it's awfully tough to say he's incapable of anything. If he's determined to break Dickerson's record -- as he certainly seems to be -- he'll probably give himself a reasonable shot. But as Dickerson has said, so many things would have to go right for Peterson to do it again. History, at least, is not on the running back's side -- not that he's ever been particularly concerned with that.

Maybe it's best to treat Peterson's 2012 season for what it was: a singular act of brilliance by a running back driven to make a dramatic comeback from knee surgery, and not the new normal. Yes, Peterson will be healthier this season than he was last year. Yes, the Vikings will likely be willing to use him early in the season more than they were last year (the fact that Peterson didn't cross 150 yards until Week 7 makes what he did even more remarkable). But it's unreasonable to expect a running back to break tackles and explode for long runs with the regularity Peterson did last year.

If he does it again, and topples Dickerson in the process, Peterson will and should be celebrated for years to come. But last year should be enough to get him that anyway, especially considering how heavily history is stacked against him replicating it.

Four 1,100-yard rushers in one division?

December, 7, 2011
Passing is generally the key to victory in the NFL.

This helps explain why quarterbacks earn the most money, why teams often draft pass-blocking tackles over top runners and why fullbacks have become endangered.

Teams still value running the ball, of course. Defenses would have an easier time defending quarterbacks if they knew with certainty a run was not coming. And every team seeking support for young or average quarterbacks would be better off with a strong ground game.

NFC West teams fall into this group. Each team in the division is on pace to produce a 1,000-yard runner.

One division has produced four 1,000-yard rushers in a season five times since divisional realignment in 2002. Each NFC West team's leading rusher is on pace for at least 1,100 yards. Only one division, the AFC North in 2010, has produced four players with at least 1,100 yards since realignment.

Frank Gore's yardage production for the 49ers has leveled off in recent weeks. Continued strong defense and increased production from quarterback Alex Smith have helped the team keep winning. Facing two backup quarterbacks -- Arizona's John Skelton and St. Louis' A.J. Feeley -- simultaneously lowered the bar for the 49ers in recent weeks.

I would expect the Seattle Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch to gain the most rushing yardage in Week 14 among NFC West backs. Seattle wants to field a run-first offense, which makes sense this week.

The Rams rank second in most sacks per pass attempt, a threat now that Seattle's best pass protector, Russell Okung, has landed on injured reserve. The Rams are averaging fewer than one offensive touchdown per game. That gives Seattle a good chance to win without taking as many chances through the air. The Rams have allowed more rushing yards than any team in the NFL.

Note: With an assist from Anicra in the comments, I updated the projected totals for Jackson, Lynch and Wells to reflect their participation in only 11 games this season. I had previously divided their rushing totals by total team games (12 apiece), using the average to project totals for the remaining four games.

Is Jahvid Best a feature back?

August, 25, 2011
One of the first reactions I got to Wednesday's brawl on the future of tailback Ryan Grant was both informative and entertaining: Would he be a fit for the Detroit Lions?

We now know that Grant has a guaranteed contract for 2011, making it pretty unlikely (but not impossible) that he'll be changing teams anytime soon. Still, the Lions-centric reaction evoked an important question: Where are the Lions going with their running game and is it reasonable to trust Jahvid Best in the primary role?

[+] EnlargeJahvid Best
Eric P. Mull/US PresswireJahvid Best suffered a concussion against the Browns, raising fresh questions about his durability.
Best suffered a concussion in last week's preseason game against the Cleveland Browns and won't play Saturday night against the New England Patriots. All concussions are to be taken seriously, but with Best it's only fair to note the one that ended his college career in 2009.

When you combine the most recent concussion with his double turf toe injuries from a year ago, you realize there have been only a few windows in Best's pro career when he hasn't been limited by a significant injury. Obviously the Lions worked hard to fortify themselves by drafting Illinois running back Mikel LeShoure, but his ruptured Achilles tendon returned the Lions backfield to an unsettled state.

To me, the Lions have three questions they need to answer:

  1. Is Best going to be healthy enough to take, say, 250 carries this season?
  2. Does he have the kind of running style that makes sense for that kind of assignment?
  3. Are there any reasonable alternatives?

From the top, there really is no way to know if Best will get hurt in the future. Fortune tellers, we're not. The Lions studied his concussion case thoroughly before the draft, so presumably they're not encountering any surprises in that regard.

On the second point, all we can say at this point is that Best didn't produce last season the way you would hope a feature back would. The toe injuries limited him to some extent, and the fact that he appeared in all 16 games at least speaks to his toughness.

But let's look a little beyond the numbers of a rookie season that saw him average 3.2 yards on 171 carries, courtesy of KC Joyner's annual fantasy football draft guide. (Earlier: The Chicago Bears' short-range passing success.)

Joyner tracks two metrics that, through film study, determine the extent to which running backs capitalize on good blocking and whether they can make up for bad blocking. Obviously, blocking success is a subjective measure, but Joyner loosely defines it as plays when no blockers allow a defense to disrupt the play.

Last season, Best had 98 carries where he received good blocking under that measure. In them, he produced the seventh-lowest ranking (5.6 yards per good blocking attempt) among running backs with at least 100 or more carries.

And on the 73 plays in which Joyner judged him to have received poor blocking, Best averaged a net total of 0.0 yards. Most runners average 1-2 yards in similar situations.

Again, this is but one way to evaluate running backs. And I'm not discounting the role the turf toe injuries played. But generally speaking, you want to see a feature back maximize well-blocked plays and at least occasionally get some yards on his own when his blockers get beat.

On the third point: The Lions signed veteran running backs Jerome Harrison and Mike Bell immediately after LeShoure's injury. They've gotten veteran Maurice Morris (hand) back on the practice field as well. Obviously they're not intrigued with any of the bigger-name running backs still on the market, a list that includes Clinton Portis and Tiki Barber, but I think it's fair to say they'll have their eyes on the waiver wire early next month when teams make final cuts to their 53-man rosters.

The Lions figure to be a pass-first team no matter who is in the backfield. Still, Best remains a key figure here. At the very least we can agree that no one knows for sure what he can do -- and what he can't -- over a long period of time.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Greetings from Detroit Lions training camp, where I arrived to find the team has responded aggressively to running back Mikel Leshoure's season-ending injury. The Lions signed free agent running backs Jerome Harrison and Mike Bell, and I believe both of them will be at the facility Tuesday.

At 225 pounds, Bell fits the profile of the type of back the Lions hoped to get from Leshoure this season. He has played for four other NFL teams, most recently the Cleveland Browns last season. Harrison, meanwhile, is a Kalamazoo, Mich., native who spent parts of five seasons with the Browns before he was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles -- in return for Bell, as serendipity turns out.

Both players are 28 and have been looking for a job since the end of the lockout. Some of you might have hoped the Lions would seek out a higher-profile name, perhaps Clinton Portis or Tiki Barber. But I wouldn't necessarily think the Lions are done looking for replacements. It could be a month-long process before they find the player they want to pair with Jahvid Best.

And that, in all reality, is the key point to take from these moves. The Lions aren't prepared to move forward with Best as their sole running back, especially with Maurice Morris recovering from a fractured hand. This Lions built their offense around the idea of a 1-2 backfield punch, and I think they're going to spend at least some time this summer finding out if they can still do that. More in a bit.
LATROBE, Pa. -- Distractions and controversy? What distractions and controversy?

The opening of training camp was business as usual for the reigning AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite offseason incidents that ranged from Hines Ward's arrest to Rashard Mendenhall's misuse of Twitter to James Harrison ripping commissioner Roger Goodell and teammates, players quickly deflected any issues and seemed genuinely happy to get back to work.

The Steelers believe their off-the-field problems are a thing of the past, and the team is ready to move forward and attempt to make another title run in 2011.

"Any time we come to training camp, our goal is the Super Bowl," Ward said. "Anything less than the Super Bowl is a down year for us. Having experienced and tasted a loss in the Super Bowl is not a good feeling. So, hopefully we can get back there and come out on the winning side."

The Steelers have a lot of work to do before the start of the regular season. Here are some early questions:


1. How will the Steelers get under the cap?

According to the new collective bargaining agreement, the Steelers have until Thursday to get under the $120 million salary cap. Despite a flurry of roster moves last week, Pittsburgh remains about $7 million to $10 million over, which is where the team started this summer.

The Steelers made several key salary cuts, including veteran receiver Antwaan Randle El and offensive tackles Max Starks and Flozell Adams. But the re-signings of in-house free agents such as cornerback Ike Taylor have basically nullified those moves.

Expect more tough decisions to be made this week.

"We have to find ways to get under [the cap] and in compliance," Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said. "We're going to look at every and all possibilities."

There is some good news for the Steelers.

The new CBA allows teams to use three $1 million exceptions in 2011, and Colbert says he will use them all. Teams have this onetime flexibility to add an extra $3 million to the cap, which essentially brings the Steelers' number up to $123 million. This could allow Pittsburgh to retain some veterans it otherwise would lose.

[+] EnlargeIke Taylor
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesIke Taylor has 11 interceptions in eight NFL seasons.
2. Has Pittsburgh fixed its pass defense?

The last memory Steelers fans have of their defense is Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers carving up the secondary for 304 yards and three touchdowns in Super Bowl XLV. Since then, Pittsburgh hasn't made any significant additions to the secondary, leaving many to wonder whether this problem is fixed.

Because Pittsburgh is fielding the same players in the secondary, it's difficult to imagine the pass defense being better than it was last season. The Steelers re-signed veteran corners Taylor and William Gay and drafted rookies Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen.

"You can't worry about what people think outside the locker room, because we've been so successful on the field," Taylor said of the criticism. "So it really doesn’t matter. Everybody has their own opinion. It comes with the territory."

Expect many teams to spread the Steelers out this season by using three- and four-receiver sets. That will force backups such as Gay or some of the young corners to play important roles on the defense.

3. How thin is Pittsburgh's offensive line?

Pittsburgh's offensive line could be the thinnest group in the league.

Outside of second-year center Maurkice Pouncey, who is a stud, the rest of the line is littered with questions. Jonathan Scott plays the important role of left tackle and was inconsistent last year. Guards Ramon Foster and Chris Kemoeatu are decent run-blockers but struggle in pass protection. And right tackle Willie Colon is coming off an Achilles injury that forced him to miss the entire 2010 season.

Cutting Starks and Adams severely hurt the talent and depth of this group. Those were two of the most experienced linemen Pittsburgh had. Cap issues make it unlikely the team will sign another starting offensive lineman in free agency.

"You can't go into it and expect to have veteran depth at every position," Colbert admitted. "It just doesn't work out financially. You have to trust some of your young guys."

[+] EnlargeMaurkice Pouncey
Geoff Burke/Getty ImagesMaurkice Pouncey is the rock of the Pittsburgh offensive line.

It's only the first weekend of camp, but backup cornerback Keenan Lewis has been a pleasant surprise. Lewis is gaining valuable experience working with the first-team defense. Taylor signed a four-year contract in free agency and isn't allowed to practice with the team until later this week.

Despite a rocky two years in Pittsburgh, Lewis is a good athlete. He has good size and quickness and is making fewer mental mistakes, which is key. The competition for the important nickel role in the secondary will be intense this summer, and Lewis could have the inside track.


With the lengthy NFL lockout, someone was bound to show up out of shape. Backup running back Jonathan Dwyer was that person for the Steelers.

I expected to see more from Dwyer, a sixth-round pick in 2009. But he struggled mightily during the conditioning evaluations and hasn't done much in the practices. The Steelers' running back corps is deep, and Dwyer is definitely on the roster bubble.


  • I like the swagger this year of Pittsburgh's "Young Money" crew of receivers. Last year, Mike Wallace was going into his first year as a starter, and Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown were rookies just trying to fit in. But you can see that last year's success, particularly in the second half of the season and the playoffs, has helped this group and improved confidence. Instead of getting yelled at by Ward, Wallace is on top of everything so far in practice and is even helping Ward tutor other receivers. Sanders and Brown look much more comfortable in their roles and are displaying the same quickness and competitiveness they showed last year.
  • Pouncey already looks scary-good in his second season. In my seven years covering the NFL, I've never seen a center who moves as well and fluidly as Pouncey. Last week, longtime NFL writer Damon Hack of Sports Illustrated and I were sitting next to each other watching Pittsburgh's conditioning evaluation. We were amazed with how easily Pouncey, who is listed at 304 pounds, was running 100-yard sprints, while the rest of the linemen were lagging far behind. Pound for pound, Pouncey is easily one of the top athletes on the Steelers.
  • Linebacker Lawrence Timmons appears to have added considerable muscle in his upper body. Timmons, who is in a contract year, said he trained mostly in Florida this summer. Timmons also is one of the best pure athletes on the team. The key will be for him to maintain his quickness and acceleration while also adding strength.
  • The fact that the Steelers tried hard to recruit big receiver Plaxico Burress says a lot about the status of Limas Sweed. The former second-round pick enters this training camp on thin ice and is down to his last shot. Sweed is coming off a season-ending Achilles injury and had issues with drops before that. Pittsburgh is taking the approach that anything it gets from Sweed is considered a bonus. He is currently the No. 5 receiver.
  • Keep an eye on rookie seventh-round pick Baron Batch. The running back has showed good explosiveness through the hole and the ability to pass-protect, which is very valuable. He has been a pleasant surprise in camp so far.
  • Overall, Pittsburgh's situation at running back is getting crowded. Mendenhall, Isaac Redman and Batch were all impressive during the first weekend of training camp. The Steelers also re-signed veteran backup Mewelde Moore. There were rumors about Tiki Barber being interested in the Steelers, but I don't see it. Pittsburgh has considerable depth at that position.
  • Finally, another sleeper who is actually having a good camp is backup tight end and de facto fullback David Johnson. What the third-year veteran lacks in athleticism he makes up in effort. Although not his specialty, he's made several nice receptions in practice and remains one of the best run-blockers on the team. The Steelers are still in the market for a No. 2 tight end after the departure of Matt Spaeth to the Chicago Bears.
Toward the end of Friday’s NFC South chat, loyal reader Richard from Ann Arbor, Mich., brought up an excellent point.
“Any explanation for why Reggie Bush, the 'overhyped, injury-prone bust' keeps getting brought up as a highly desirable free-agent?’’ Richard wrote.

Yep, it’s highly ironic that Bush, who is viewed by many as a “bust," suddenly seems like a superstar as people speculate that he could part ways with the New Orleans Saints. I’ve heard from a lot of Tampa Bay fans who seem to think Bush could help put the Bucs over the top. I’ve heard from a few Carolina fans who say Bush might be a good addition if DeAngelo Williams leaves. I’ve yet to hear any Atlanta fans pleading for Bush, but it’s still early.

First off, Bush remains property of the Saints. Although Bush made some early noise about wanting out when the Saints drafted Mark Ingram, he’s made more recent comments in which he has said he would like to stay in New Orleans.

That, of course, would require something to happen with Bush’s contract. He’s scheduled to make almost $12 million in base salary and count $16 million against this year’s salary cap. The Saints can’t afford that, and they’ve hinted many times they’d like to restructure Bush’s contract. That could happen shortly after the lockout ends.

But let’s get hypothetical and say the Saints somehow decide to release Bush. Would he fit in Carolina?

Yeah, I could see Bush serving as a change-of-pace back to Jonathan Stewart. But that’s only if Williams leaves. And let’s make it clear: I think that would be a downgrade. Bush has some good aspects, but he’s not the all-around back Williams is.

What about Tampa Bay?

I definitely could see a fit there. But before Tampa Bay fans get too carried away with this one, let’s go back to Richard’s point about Bush. His time in New Orleans has showed he’s never going to be the player many thought he would be when he came into the league as the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2006.

Bush has had some injury problems and it’s pretty well established he’s never going to be a guy who is going to give you 20 or 25 carries a game. He’s a role player. He can give you some carries, he can catch some passes out of the backfield and he makes a defense react to his presence. He also can help you as a return man.

Use him as a change-of-pace back and a third-down back behind LeGarrette Blount and the fit makes sense in Tampa Bay. If Bush comes available and the price tag isn’t too steep, he’d be an upgrade on Cadillac Williams, who can become a free agent. Bush also would be a much better alternative than Tiki Barber, who many are linking to the Bucs.
Tiki Barber, along with twin brother, Ronde, talked about his planned attempt at a comeback after sitting out the last four NFL seasons.

Tiki Barber has said he wants to play again and the running back should have some potential suitors around the league once the lockout is over. But don't look for Tampa Bay to be one of them.

Although Ronde Barber is a cornerback for the Bucs and has some influence with coach Raheem Morris, it's an extreme long shot that the Bucs would pursue Tiki Barber. They're deep in a youth movement and LeGarrette Blount is set as the No. 1 back. Cadillac Williams is eligible to be a free agent, but the Bucs are expected to make an attempt to keep him.

If Williams leaves, the Bucs also have Kareem Huggins, who is coming back from a knee injury, as a third-down back. But the Bucs also could go out and pursue a younger running back in free agency.

At 36 and out of football for four years, Tiki Barber decided he needed football and launched a comeback this offseason.

The question is whether the NFL needs him.

What could help Barber is a league that might trust veterans more than rookies because of a lockout that robbed rookies the chance of working with coaches during the offseason. It also helps that most teams use two-back rotations that create openings for role-playing backs.

[+] EnlargeTiki Barber
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesTiki Barber last played in the NFL during the 2006 season.
Barber’s name won’t be at the front of lists of free agents once the lockout ends, but let’s explore a few considerations for future employment.

1. Pittsburgh Steelers: There wouldn’t be a chance if coach Mike Tomlin had a chance to work with 2010 sixth-round choice Jonathan Dwyer during the offseason to see if he’s ready to be Rashard Mendenhall’s backup. But Dwyer’s stock is as uncertain as it was at the end of last season. The Steelers would need a third-down back if Mewelde Moore leaves in free agency. An experienced playoff contender such as the Steelers might find Barber an intriguing option.

2. St. Louis Rams: The Rams need a backup running back to lighten the load for workhorse Steven Jackson. Even though coach Steve Spagnuolo didn’t join the New York Giants’ coaching staff until the year Barber retired, he knows Barber’s résumé and what he can do to fill out a backfield. Barber may not head the list of running back candidates for the Rams, but he could be discussed.

3. Miami Dolphins: Coach Tony Sparano has to decide if he can bring Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown back to the roster. Neither back, though, fills the role of pass-catcher. The Dolphins plan to remain a running team, so it wouldn’t hurt to have a veteran back with Barber’s experience in big games.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Once the lockout ends and contact between players and coaches resumes, twin brother Ronde Barber could be pushing the Bucs to add Tiki to the backfield. LeGarrette Blount has established himself as the early-down back. The team has to decide whether to bring back Cadillac Williams. Barber could be a fit behind Blount.

5. New England Patriots: No coach in football appreciates older backs as much as Bill Belichick. Kevin Faulk and Fred Taylor are 35. Sammy Morris is 34. If Faulk retires or the Patriots don’t re-sign him, Faulk’s role in the Patriots’ backfield fits Barber’s skills.

Tiki Barber's comeback hopes at age 35 cannot touch the time Jim Brown threatened to come back in his late 40s, when an aging Franco Harris was challenging his rushing record.

Brown was 29 when he played his final snap, then retired while still dominant. He had the right idea.

Very few backs have remained productive into their 30s. The chart below shows running backs from current NFC West franchises who carried at least 50 times in a season past age 31, according to Pro Football Reference. I limited the search to the past 35 seasons (the newest current NFC West franchise, Seattle, entered the NFL in 1976).

It's a short list featuring seven players, including three legends finishing their careers wearing unfamiliar uniforms (Emmitt Smith in Arizona, O.J. Simpson in San Francisco and Franco Harris in Seattle).

None gained 1,000 yards in a season even though all played in the 16-game schedule era -- an era Brown ridiculed for this marvelous 1983 Sports Illustrated piece discussing his comeback threat. In it, Brown said Harris might break his record if he kept running out of bounds frequently enough to prolong his career. The best quote from Brown, by far, makes me wonder what Brown must think of the current NFL game:
"Where has the danger in the game gone? I can't accept quarterbacks sliding and running backs running out of bounds. Ever since the merger in 1966 and the creation of the Super Bowl, the owners have been more concerned with ratings than the level of the game. Coaches put up with players waving into TV cameras, giving high fives and spiking the ball. That sells. The Monday Night Football broadcasters have become bigger than the game. Who is kidding whom? Who's to say a 47-year-old can't do it? I'm not talking about being Jim Brown of 1965. I'm talking about being Jim Brown of 1984. If Franco Harris is gonna creep to my record, I might as well come back and creep, too."

Barber, for the record, ranks 22nd on the NFL's all-time rushing list. He's within 200 yards of passing Watters for the 20th spot. Watters rushed for 1,242 yards at age 31 and still appeared to have quite a bit left, but the Seahawks had drafted Shaun Alexander and Watters wasn't interested in a situational role.

In honor of the news that running back Tiki Barber, who last played in 2006 for the New York Giants, is coming out of retirement, I searched for guys from the recent past of the AFC South we’d most like to see return to action.

[+] EnlargeIndianapolis Colts offensive tackle Tarik Glenn
AP Photo/Amy SancettaWould you like to see former Indianapolis Colts offensive tackle Tarik Glenn back in the NFL this season?
But the fact of the matter is few players leave the league without being asked to do so. There isn't a lengthy list of return candidates to comb through.

If you could freeze a guy from the recent past when he stopped playing and have him back today, who would you want?

Indianapolis Colts left tackle Tarik Glenn is the one clear choice to me in such a hypothetical scenario.

Like Barber, Glenn retired after the 2006 season. The Colts anticipated one more year out of their left tackle and his departure forced Tony Ugoh into action ahead of schedule. Ugoh eventually busted, and Charlie Johnson, not a natural at the spot, has done the best he can holding the spot down the last few years.

Glenn was the team’s No. 1 pick, 19th overall, in 1997 out of Cal. He had a reasonably long career but Indianapolis would certainly have taken more, especially considering the failures at replacing him. He was 31 and coming off a Super Bowl win when he called it quits. Five seasons later, if he was fit and rested, he could probably still help.

Anyone else you’d like to have back?
There’s an interesting story coming out of New York that will at least make some fans in Tampa Bay wonder about an intriguing scenario.

Former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber reportedly has filed the paperwork necessary to come out of retirement and return to the NFL. Barber’s twin brother, Ronde Barber, recently signed a one-year contract to continue his career with the Buccaneers, the only team he’s ever played for.

Could Tiki join Ronde as a teammate for the first time since they were in college?

It’s at least something to ponder. Although the Bucs generally are following a youth movement, Ronde has plenty of clout with coach Raheem Morris and might be able to encourage the Bucs to sign his brother.

Tiki would return to the NFL as a free agent, and he was critical of Giants coach Tom Coughlin, so a reunion isn’t likely. Tampa Bay found a feature back in LeGarrette Blount last season, and the Bucs are hoping to keep Cadillac Williams as a third-down back. But the Bucs could use a backup to keep Blount from being overused.
Could this unexpected news have an impact on the AFC West?

Tiki Barber is coming out of retirement. He hasn’t played since 2006. His rights are owned by the Giants, but there’s no guarantee the Giants would want him. If Barber becomes free, would a player who hasn’t played in five years and who is a month from turning 36 create interest in the AFC West?

I’d doubt there would be a ton of interest. New Denver coach John Fox spent time on the Giants’ coaching staff and he knows Barber. Fox loves to run the ball and he loves veterans. So, I’d say Denver would be the most logical landing spot for Barber in the AFC West. Yet, I wouldn’t say Barber would be a high priority because of his age and length of inactivity.

And, of course, you can never discount Al Davis when it comes to veterans. Davis loves big names and winners. If Michael Bush leaves as a free agent, Oakland could use a running back.

But again, it all goes back to the fact that Barber hasn’t played in five years. Would anybody really be interested?

UPDATE: Forget about the Giants wanting to keep Barber. The team plans to release him from the reserve/retired list.

Parcells, Bledsoe and the Hall of Fame

February, 9, 2011
I once heard Tom Donahoe, the former Buffalo Bills president and general manager, call quarterback Drew Bledsoe a future Pro Football Hall of Famer.

Then again, Donahoe used to say a lot of things.

I was reminded of this when taking a glance at players who will make their first appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot for 2012.

Buffalo News reporter Mark Gaughan, who's on the Hall of Fame selection committee and last weekend was elected president of the Pro Football Writers Association, blogged the top newcomers to consider the next few years.

[+] EnlargeBill Parcells and Drew Bledsoe
AP Photo/Ed ZurgaBill Parcells and his former quarterback Drew Bledsoe will be on the Hall of Fame ballot next year.
The lists are helpful in speculating when fan favorites such as Andre Reed and Curtis Martin will get their Canton calls. They both were finalists this year -- Reed for the fifth time, Martin for the first -- but weren't added to the 2011 induction class Saturday.

Perhaps that development was fitting for Martin because his coach with the New England Patriots and New York Jets will be on the ballot again. They could get in together in 2012.

Bill Parcells has been a finalist twice, but not since 2002 because rules for coaches changed. They now must wait five years from their last game to be eligible for induction, and Parcells returned to the sidelines with the Dallas Cowboys in 2003.

Is Parcells a Hall of Famer? I know Miami Dolphins fans aren't too thrilled with him these days, but he did add to an already remarkable legacy -- two championships, different teams to the Super Bowl, a few organizational turnarounds -- by guiding the Dolphins from 1-15 to the AFC East title as their football operations boss.

Also on the ballot next year will be Bledsoe, running backs Corey Dillon and Tiki Barber, fullback Mike Alstott, guard Will Shields and coaches Bill Cowher and Marty Schottenheimer.

Bledsoe had a fine career with the Patriots, Bills and Cowboys and ranks eighth all-time in passing yards. But he was a Pro Bowler only four times and never was first-team All-Pro. Bledsoe was helpful in getting the Patriots their first championship, so he does have a ring. But that was Tom Brady's team.

Dillon also was a four-time Pro Bowler and won a Super Bowl with the Patriots. He ranks 17th in rushing yards and never led the league in a major rushing category.

Schottenheimer played for the Bills and Patriots before winning 61 percent of his regular-season games as head coach of the Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins and San Diego Chargers. His 200 victories rank sixth all-time, but his 5-23 playoff record will hurt.

That group of first-time candidates -- plus the newcomers for 2013 -- bodes well for Reed. There won't be any new receivers for him to box out. He already has jockeyed ahead of contemporaries Cris Carter and Tim Brown by making the cut from 15 to 10 in the selection process the past two years. Carter and Brown haven't.

Gaughan highlighted first-year players for next few classes.

2013: Quarterback Vinny Testaverde, offensive linemen Larry Allen and Jonathan Ogden, defensive tackle Warren Sapp, defensive end Michael Strahan.

2014: Running back Shaun Alexander, receiver Marvin Harrison, linebacker Derrick Brooks, safety Rodney Harrison and coaches Tony Dungy, Jon Gruden and Mike Holmgren -- if they don't return to sideline work.

2015: Quarterback Kurt Warner, receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, tackles Orlando Pace and Walter Jones and linebacker Junior Seau.

Tiki Barber's on a roll

September, 30, 2010
We mentioned this morning that former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber said Wednesday that Tom Coughlin's job was in jeopardy and that he might be in the process of losing the locker room. On Thursday, he had a chance to clarify those remarks while discussing his induction into the Giants' new Ring of Honor:

"I've never, and I would challenge anyone to this, I have never said that Tom was a bad coach," Barber said per "I think he is a great coach. My issue with him, and he knows what it is because we had plenty of discussions, some civil, some not, is about how you treat people. His biggest evolution is in how he's respected his players and how he's got them to play for him. That is why they won the Super Bowl in 2007. Now, he needs as a team, he needs to find that mutual center of respect and success will come their way."

But that's not all Barber said during Thursday's conference call:

"[Coughlin's] is in a crisis because of the perception that he is losing his team," Barber said. "We all know that especially in New York, once the media and the perception becomes a reality, you start fighting against it. And when you are fighting against something that is not necessarily real, you make it real. That is why he is in a crisis."

Really? So Coughlin's causing this crisis because he's fighting against the media? That seems a little far-fetched to me. Ian O'Connor of certainly thinks Coughlin will hold this thing together. He thinks the Giants coach will continue to point to what happened in 2007. And that's a pretty good reference point.

Guess who's doubting Tom Coughlin?

September, 30, 2010
Former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber is at it again. He told Yahoo! Sports this week that he doesn't think players are listening to coach Tom Coughlin.

"I don't know if he's completely lost control of the team, but it's definitely slipping away," Barber said. "... Right now, Tom Coughlin is at a crisis. His job is certainly in jeopardy."

Barber will be one of 30 players inducted into the club's Ring of Honor on Sunday night, so this seems like poor form. But he was never afraid to criticize his coach when he was on the roster either.