Tiki focused on football, but '06 could be his finale
New York Giants
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."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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