In 2006, Tiki Barber abruptly and somewhat prematurely retired from the National Football League (NFL), where he played for the New York Giants from 1997-2006 and was their featured running back. He believed he was about to be catapulted into the national spotlight as an employee for NBC, where in 2007 he became a correspondent for The Today Show and for Sunday Night Football. This is a classic tale of all that glitters is not gold.
As a second-round draft pick of the New York Giants, the former Virginia Cavalier made his NFL debut in 1997 and went on to make the Pro Bowl three times during his nine-year career in which he became the teams’ all-time leading rusher with more than 10,000 yards. Believing that his charisma and good looks would translate into a lengthy television career, Tiki decided to walk away from the game at his pinnacle to take his place amongst TV royalty. During his career, Barber never won a Super Bowl championship, which ironically, the Giants went on to win during the 2007-2008 season. During his commentating run on Football Night in America, Barber often criticized his former club and spoke ill of former teammates, leaving some to question his status as a “team player.”
Fast forward a few years and Barber’s on-air career fizzled out. Personal problems in his life led to his separation and divorce from his wife. Now if you are not familiar with this scenario, allow me to walk you through this:
November 2007, Michael Jordan agrees to a 168 million-dollar divorce settlement from his wife, Juanita Jordan. In addition to the settlement, she received the couple’s seven-acre Chicago mansion and custody of their three kids. If it was anyone other than Michael Jordan, they would have to return to work.
On March 8, 2011, Barber filed the necessary paperwork to come out of retirement, citing a love for the game. Now many, including myself, questioned this since it was not a love for the game, rather a love for Tiki which triggered his retirement at the height of his career. He had claimed he wanted to leave before his body broke down, which translates into before he was unceremoniously cut like most running backs at the end of their career. With the NFL in a lockout at that time, Barber was uncertain of the response he would get from potential suitors, but cited that he stayed in shape, and also the condition of his genetic equal and twin, Ronde Barber who is the cornerback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Training camps came and went and only the Miami Dolphins even sprung for a plane ticket to take a look at Barber.
In a shortened offseason where so many players signed one-year offers, not a team felt it wanted to take a risk on the 36-year old running back who at the league minimum would only be owed slightly over $900,000. Barring a load of injuries at the running back position, this is the last call for Tiki Barber in the NFL.
In life, so often we burn bridges that we think we will never have to travel back across and are humbled when we have to return from whence we came. Tom Coughlin, head coach of the New York Giants and Barber’s former team were the first to comment that they had no interest in bringing the former team’s running back into camp for a workout. Many former athletes have gotten invites to training camp as a cordiality but not Barber. Could it have been his open criticism of the team or his former teammates? Possibly, but more than likely, it’s a general belief that he is coming back for the wrong reasons, which has been publicly cited by commentators league wide. In any event, it’s last call at the Tiki bar, and no body’s buying.