Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Updated: March 9, 10:54 AM ET
Barber can make impact, just not in N.Y.
By Ohm Youngmisuk
Tiki Barber was watching the New York Jets and New England Patriots playoff game in January when his trainer asked him a question that seemed absurd at the time.
Perhaps it was the sight of LaDainian Tomlinson, another 30-something running back, scoring a touchdown against the Patriots that made Joe Carini wonder why Barber wasn't still carrying the football as well.
With his twin brother Ronde sitting close by, Barber told his trainer, "You are crazy as hell."
But "crazy as hell" soon turned into a few conversations. A few weeks later, Barber was telling Carini that he wanted to start working out again.
On Thursday, Barber's agent, Mark Lepselter, announced the running back's decision to come out of retirement after four years away from the game.
Eat your heart out, Brett Favre.
Fortunately, as Favre did when he came out of his first retirement (at least we think it was his first retirement, we've lost count), Barber will have to resume his career with a new team after spending his entire career with the same organization.
It didn't take the New York Giants long after Barber's comeback was revealed to say thanks, but no thanks. The Giants still own the rights to Barber but will release their all-time leading rusher as soon as the NFL settles its labor situation according to a statement released by team spokesman Pat Hanlon.
Barber could very well help somebody as a third-down back or perhaps in a role similar to how the Jets utilized Tomlinson after signing him last season.
While the Giants certainly can use someone to catch the ball out of the backfield and had success not too long ago with three running backs (see Earth, Wind and Fire), Tom Coughlin probably wanted Barber back about as much as he would want the critics he famously told to kiss his derriere at the end of last season to sit in on team meetings.
Tiki Part 2 would have been toxic for the Giants. It would have been as comfortable as Antonio Cromartie breaking bread with Tom Brady.
As great as Barber was as a Giant -- remember, he rushed for more than 1,500 yards in each of his last three seasons -- he also did a decent job as an NFL analyst. And that meant offering up brutally honest criticism of his old team, specifically Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning.
According to Antonio Pierce, Barber didn't just burn bridges, he blew them up the way the old Giants Stadium came crumbling down.
"He didn't do anything to help the Giants [in] 2006 when he decided to retire in the middle of the season and then months later question our quarterback and our head coach," Pierce, now an NFL analyst with ESPN, said on "NFL Live." "That is my problem with Tiki Barber."
"I didn't get a chance to get to know who Tiki Barber was the person," Pierce continued. "I know him as a player and the guy was great and we always congratulate each other, the way we played.
"But what he did in that locker room my two years with him, he didn't do anything but deteriorate that team," Pierce added. "And he didn't help us out. I don't see this guy as a leader or somebody that can help you out. That is why I believe they [the Giants] will release him because he is going to cause nothing but problems for that team."
That doesn't mean Barber is going to be a headache for another team. Barber isn't a cancerous figure that is going to tear a locker room apart. He just had too much history with Coughlin. Last season, he said Coughlin was in a crisis after the team started off 1-2 and he was loudly booed by fans when he was inducted at halftime of a game into the Giants' Ring of Honor.
Barber will get a fresh start somewhere else and more than likely help another team, given the right situation. He has been working out hard for two weeks with Carini, who trained Tomlinson last season and helped the Jets running back add six pounds of muscle. Tomlinson rushed for 914 yards and six touchdowns last year.
Barber is currently 198 pounds, 10 pounds off his playing weight, according to his trainer. Carini expects Barber to add that muscle in a few more weeks.
"He is dead serious and he has been coming in every day," Carini said. "Truth of the matter is he feels great. His knee, his shoulders feel great. No injuries. He doesn't have a problem moving and is pretty quick [even though] he hasn't played in four years."
Carini, who also trains Tomlinson and Chris Snee of the Giants, said Barber has only mentioned one potential team and that's Tampa Bay, where he could play with Ronde.
"If he gets with the right team and they utilize him the right way, the man will be back on top," Carini said. "I'm not saying they need to give him the ball 20 to 25 times a week but he still has enough left in the tank. He can be very, very productive."
Barber just needs to be productive somewhere else for the first time in his pro career.
|At 31, LaDainian Tomlinson showed he still had some gas left in the tank with the Jets. |
Now, the Giants have a few more months to figure out what to do when another former Giants star, a certain 6-5 wide receiver, is ready to make his comeback.
Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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