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Tiki focused on football, but '06 could be his finale

7/28/2006 - NFL Tiki Barber New York Giants + more

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Consecutive record-setting seasons hasn't
stopped New York Giants running back Tiki Barber from thinking
about life after football, possibly even after this season.

The 31-year-old Barber said after his first practice at training
camp on Friday that he would consider retiring after this season if
the right opportunity came along.

The NFL's second-leading rusher last season with 1,860 yards,
Barber could not describe the perfect job opportunity but he
admitted that he got a few offers that interested him this past
summer.

The Giants' career rushing leader turned them down because he
feels that this team can win a championship and get him that
cherished ring.

"I honestly feel we can compete for a Super Bowl this season,"
said Barber, who is entering his 10th season. "I am telling
everyone on our team and you guys if you want to listen, that we
can get there. That we should be able to get there as long as we
stay healthy, as long as we all believe that."

Coming off an 11-5 season that won them the NFC East title, the
Giants are an improved team. All 11 members of the offense are back
and the defense has been upgraded with the signing of three-time
Pro Bowl linebacker LaVar Arrington and three new players for the
secondary.

While winning a Super Bowl would fulfill his dream and possibly
hasten his retirement, Barber isn't solely interested in football.
He has many interests. He has worked as a television on-air
personality for years, doing a special this summer in New Orleans
on the USS New York, a ship being built partially from steel taken
from the World Trade Center.

Barber also has dabbled in the financial world and written three
books with his twin brother, Ronde, a football player with the
Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The two are under contract to write two books
for adolescents.

"I have a lot in my life already mapped out," Barber said. "I
know that some inside and outside of this organization probably
aren't happy with what I have been doing. It's my dream and my
passion, just as football is.

"I know that I have a focus and when camp starts, I shift to
this [football]," Barber added. "What I do in my offseason is my
business even though it is in the public eye. I'm excited for new
challenges in my life and we'll see what happens with this season,
and possibly next."

Now a member of the 30-plus crowd, Barber isn't slowing down. He
has had four straight seasons of rushing for 1,000 yards, including
team records of 1,518 yards in 2004 and 1,860 last year.

"It's funny because I keep telling myself there is no way I'll
do that again," Barber said. "I keep exceeding my own
expectations, which is encouraging. It shows me at 30 last year and
31 this year, I am still young."

Barber, who two years ago shed his problems with fumbles, would
not mind sharing the halfback load this season with second-year pro
Brandon Jacobs and third-year pro Derrick Ward. They combined for
73 carries and 222 yards rushing last season, a 3.0 yard average.
Barber lugged the ball 357 times, averaging 5.2 yards.

Barber feels his two backups have made progress and they are
ready to lighten his load.

Whether coach Tom Coughlin uses Jacobs and Ward remains to be
seen.

"Like I do every season I prepare myself for whatever," said
Barber, who is under contract until 2008. "If I have to carry the
ball every snap, I'll do it. If I get half of them, that's what
I'll do as well, as long as it is helping us win."

If Barber feels his game is slipping or that an injury is
limiting him, it would make him consider retirement.

"I know very well my career could end without my biggest dream
coming true," Barber said. "But I want to try as hard as I can
and to the best of my ability to get that so I won't be the guy who
was the greatest rusher in Giants history but ..."

Barber hesitated for a few seconds, then finished: "I would
like to close this life the right way."