|Barber says his NFL comeback attempt is over and is now trying to mend some fences. (Getty Images)|
By Ryan Wilson
And so it ends … again: Tiki Barber has given up his dream of returning to the NFL even though that career path had been decided for him when the NFL took a collective pass on his services this season.
"No. No. I'm not trying to come back," Barber said according to ESPNNewYork.com. "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."
But Barber's not in the news because he didn't make it as a 36-year-old running back. He's a story because his former team, the Giants, are in the playoffs and Barber was looking to un-burn some bridges he set ablaze during his post-NFL career as an NBC Sports analyst.
"We tried [to set up a meeting with Giants head coach Tom Coughlin]. He said no, through his agent, (Giants vice president of communications) Pat Hanlon," Barber said of his attempt to bury the hatchet. "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."
At one time or another, Barber had a falling out with just about everybody in New York, including his former coach and franchise quarterback Eli Manning. In 2007, before New York upset New England in the Super Bowl, Barber famously questioned Manning's leadership skills.
Eli's response at the time:
"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."
Last summer, after Barber had announced his intentions to return to the NFL, former players-turned-TV-analysts Warren Sapp and Michael Strahan spoke frankly about why it was an awful idea.
“I didn’t think much of him when he did play,” Sapp told Rich Eisen on the aptly named Rich Eisen Podcast. ”I mean that’s the whole point. He was a fumbler all the way through his life, and then all of a sudden, somebody taught him how to hold the ball up high and then he (left the Giants) and said, Eli (Manning) can’t lead them and they’ll never win a championship.
“That kind of lends to who I’m talking about. This is the same guy. This is all encompassed into the same thing. There’s no way you turn your back on your teammates that block for you, that gave you the ball on short fields and did whatever they did. … There’s still no reason for you to attack your teammates.”
Strahan, who played with Barber in New York, was in no hurry to defend his former teammate. “Sapp is 100 percent right,” he said. “Only thing is, if it comes to playing football, he can play.”
Time has softened Barber, it seems. He now recognizes that Eli is a top-flight quarterback and has had a lot to do with the Giants' success.
"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."
Too little, too late? Probably.
But Barber sounds like he's working through the five stages of grief and after denial, anger, bargaining and depression, he's finally on acceptance. And trying to get on with the rest of his life.
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