- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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Tiki Barber has tried to set up a face-to-face meeting with New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin in an attempt to bury the hatchet, but Coughlin won't accept one, the franchise's all-time leading rusher told ESPNNewYork.com's Ian O'Connor during an interview on ESPN New York 1050.
"We tried. He said no, through his agent, (Giants vice president of communications) Pat Hanlon," Barber said. "But one of these days I'm sure it'll happen, because as we know, time heals all wounds. And I think at the end of the day, Giants fans, despite their dislike of me at times, know that I was one of the guys that put (it) on the line every time I put on my uniform."
It has been well-documented how Barber never saw eye-to-eye with Coughlin during his playing days, and the two eventually had a falling out. Barber had said in the past that it was the Coughlin's militant and "demeaning" coaching style that drove him from the field into the broadcast booth. On Nov. 29, a day after the Giants were blown out by the Saints in New Orleans, Barber wrote an online column criticizing Coughlin.
"I took pride in what I did. I knew there were 52 other guys counting on me every week," Barber replied when asked why he was able to rise to the occasion on Sundays despite his rocky relationship with Coughlin. "One issue I've ever had with Tom is he never respected that. He always tried to vilify me."
One player who's earned Barber's respect is quarterback Eli Manning.
Barber, who once questioned Manning's leadership capabilities, said his ex-teammate has greatly improved in that department, and is no longer rattled by adversity.
Barber even thinks Manning has a chance to outplay Aaron Rodgers in Sunday's NFC divisional playoff game.
"Here's what I look for when I'm looking for an elite quarterback. Someone that no matter the circumstances -- whether you're playing great, whether you're playing horrible -- has that unfettered drive to succeed," Barber said.
"That's what Eli has learned over the last five or six years -- from the early days when I saw him where everything used to rattle him -- to now. No matter what happens, he's always into the football game and doing something to help his team win.
"That's my definition of an elite quarterback, and why Eli is in on that conversation now."
Barber retired following the 2006 season, but attempted to make a comeback in 2011. He worked out with the Miami Dolphins in August, but they didn't offer him a contract, and neither did any other NFL team. Barber's former teammate, Plaxico Burress, was surprised, prompting Burress to say that Barber was "better than half the backs in this league."
Barber agrees with Burress' assessment, but said he won't be attempting another comeback again.
"No. No. I'm not trying to come back," Barber said. "It was an excuse for me to get up off the couch and do something, and it worked, because now I'm engaged in a few different things and I feel really strong about where I am personally, and that's all that matters in life."
Barber questioned Manning's ability as a leader following his retirement, saying Manning's pregame speeches were "almost comical."
To which Manning famously responded: "I'm not going to lose any sleep about what Tiki has to say. I guess I could have questioned his leadership skills last year with calling out the coach and having articles about him retiring in the middle of the season, and (how) he's lost the heart (to play). As a quarterback, you're reading that your running back has lost the heart to play the game and it's about the 10th week. I can see that a little bit at times."
Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.
1dEric D. Williams