Tiki Barber coming out of retirement
Barber, who turns 36 in April, hasn't played since the 2006 season with the Giants, where he spent his entire 10-year career. Most recently he had been a correspondent for "The Today Show" and "Sunday Night Football" on NBC, but the network did not renew his contract. He has been doing video work for Yahoo! Sports.
Barber, who had two years left on his Giants contract when he retired, will not be making his comeback with New York.
"We wish Tiki nothing but the best, and when we are able to make the transaction, we will release him from our reserve/retired list," team spokesman Pat Hanlon said in a statement.
While owners and players are engaged in talks for a new collective bargaining agreement, teams are not allowed to make roster moves.
Lepselter, though, told FoxSports.com that "there are interested parties."
Can't Outrush Father Time
Tiki Barber, who turns 36 on April 7, will try to return to the NFL next season. No running back that age or older has rushed for more than 830 yards in a season.
Most Rush Yards in Season
36 or Older at Opener
36 or Older at Opener
|Marcus Allen||'96 Chiefs||830|
|John Riggins||'85 Redskins||677|
"We are optimistic there will be opportunities for him," he told ESPNNewYork.com.
Barber's twin brother, Ronde, plays defensive back for the Buccaneers. Ronde Barber signed a one-year deal last month to return for a 15th season with Tampa Bay.
"After seeing my brother still have fun at our age, it reignited the fire," Tiki Barber said, according to FoxSports.com. "I'm really looking forward to the challenge of seeing if I can get back to the level of where I was. I started working out again recently. It kind of shocked myself. I still had a lot of the strength I had before. I'm really looking forward to making a return."
"I think Tiki will work his rear end off to be successful," Lepselter added. "I wouldn't doubt him. He's going to work his rear end off to get to the best level he possibly can, and we hope there's a team out there that will give him the opportunity."
Barber went out on top, rushing for 1,662 yards and five touchdowns in 2006. He ran for 10,449 yards with a 4.7 yards-per-carry average in his career.
He rushed for a career-best 1,860 yards in 2005 when he made one of his three Pro Bowls.
After he retired, he said Tom Coughlin's coaching style was part of the reason he stopped playing. The Giants won the Super Bowl the year after Barber retired.
Joe Carini, Barber's personal trainer, said he first planted the seed of a comeback while watching the Jets-Patriots playoff game with the Barber brothers. Around the Super Bowl, Barber began to seriously contemplate a return and he began working out a couple of weeks ago to get back in shape.
"He is dead serious and he has been coming in every day," said Carini, who also trains Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson. "He is 198 pounds and is in good shape. Not as strong as he is going to be but he will be. When he was with the Giants, he was 208. I'm talking about putting on another 10 pounds with him in a matter of a few weeks. 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 said Barber has only talked about playing for one potential new team -- the Buccaneers. Playing in Tampa Bay would allow Barber to play with his brother Ronde.
"He is going to play," Carini said. "I don't know what team."
Tiki Barber in photos
With Tiki Barber now set to make his return to the NFL, let's take a look back at his career: Tiki Barber
"If he gets with the right team and they utilize him the right way, the man will be back on top," Carini added. "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."
But Antonio Pierce, the former Giants linebacker, says his old teammate won't add much to the locker room of any team that decides to add him in terms of leadership.
"I didn't get a chance to get to know who Tiki Barber was the person," Pierce said. "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. And that's my problem with him. That is why I believe they [the Giants] will release him because he is going to cause nothing but problems for that team."
If Barber can't find an NFL team that wants him, Jim Fassel, one of his former coaches from the Giants, said he'd be happy to have him play for his Las Vegas Locomotives in the United Football League.
"He says he wants to play in the NFL. If he wants to come play in our league, I would be happy to have him," Fassel, president/GM/coach of the two-time UFL champs, told the New York Daily News.
Fassel told the newspaper he planned to call Barber to wish him good luck on his comeback attempt and also extend an offer to join his UFL team.
While Barber was an outstanding player for the Giants, the always-outspoken running back has been critical of Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning since his retirement.
NYG All-Time Leading Rushers
Tiki Barber is by far and away the Giants' all-time leading rusher, but he won't get a chance to add to the total.
|Ron A. Johnson||1970-75||3,836|
Last September, Barber said Coughlin was losing his grip on the Giants' locker room and had a crisis on his hands after the team lost two straight to start the season 1-2.
"He is in a crisis because of the perception that he is losing his team," Barber said after the Giants lost 29-10 to Tennessee at home in a game in which Coughlin took blame for the Giants committing 11 penalties, six of which were personal fouls. "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."
"He needs to figure out a way to get control of this situation," Barber added. "Whether it is playing better and not making mistakes or whether it is having a group of players like he did in previous years, stand up and take accountability for what is going on, not pushing the blame by saying we should've, we could've, we didn't, saying we played poorly, we need to take responsibility for it."
Barber didn't always see eye to eye with Coughlin over his controlling ways while playing for him. But Barber did praise Coughlin's coaching and said that was not the problem last year when the Giants got off to their 1-2 start.
When Barber was inducted into the Giants Ring of Honor last year days after his Coughlin-in-crisis comments, fans booed the running back during the halftime ceremony.
Manning said it was unfortunate that fans treated Barber like that.
"It's just unfortunate because he was a great player for the Giants, had a great career, and was a great player in my first years here and helped us win a lot of games when I wasn't playing particularly well," Manning said during an interview with ESPN 1050 radio last year.
"It's unfortunate how people view him now because he was a great player for the Giants, but things have happened that are unfortunate."
Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Ohm Youngmisuk and Ian O'Connor and ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter was used in this report.
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