New York Giants running back Tiki Barber says it will be cool one day to sit down on a Sunday and just watch his twin brother Ronde play football. To simply appreciate how good he is.
While talking via telephone with the local media in Tampa Wednesday, Tiki joked that he might even come to Tampa and tailgate one day.
Well, that day is right around the corner for the man who has become the unofficial Prince of the Big Apple’s sporting world. His imminent retirement from the Giants isn’t a passing impulse.
“It’s set,” Barber said of his retirement.
Tiki is sure his retirement will have absolutely no baring on twin brother Ronde’s career despite the fact that their gridiron pursuits have mirrored one another’s from the time they were in Pop Warner.
“I think [Ronde] will play five or six more years,” said Tiki, who described his brother’s passion for sports and competition as never ending.
“He has definitive goals that he wants to reach milestones he wants to achieve as a football player to put him in the history of the game,” Tiki said. “And it’s interesting what people always ask me, ‘Well what about the Hall of Fame? You could play a couple more years and make the Hall of Fame.’ And I always say, ‘You know what, I’ll go up there and introduce my brother and I’ll be on record with him and that’s most important for me.’”
Tiki’s decision to call it quits after this season was leaked on October 18 by New York Times writer John Branch. Barber said it was not his intention to announce those plans in mid season and he would have preferred Branch not write it, but he had no intentions of shying away once it was aired.
He also wanted fans, the Giants organization and the NFL to know it was not an impulsive decision, but one he’s actually been considering for a few years. He even pondered walking away this past off-season, but came back because he thought the Giants had the talent to win a Super Bowl this year.
Sunday’s game at Giants Stadium will be the fifth time the brothers have met on opposing sides of the field since entering the league in 1997.
The former Virginia Tech Cavaliers have played in a combined five Pro Bowls, and barring a clandestine meeting in Miami on Feb. 4 in the Super Bowl, Sunday’s game will be their last competitive encounter as NFL players.
“Hopefully we’ll both make the Pro Bowl this year so we can go out to Hawaii and do it again as teammates,” he said.
“[My retirement] does give a little bit of significance to this game. For Ronde and myself it will be a great stage for us and I’m glad it’s happening the way it is”.
IT IS SET. “Eager and excited to get to doing other things.”
That’s how Tiki described his feelings about leaving the game. In a league where too often players attempt to extend their days beyond their physical capabilities, Barber falls along the lines of a handful of players who elect to exit at their peak.
He can’t site one definitive moment or hit which made him consider retirement, but did say the pounding his body has taken over the last couple of years is a major factor in his decision.
And the pain has surfaced more so recently. Three games this season in particular, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Washington, left him extremely sore to the point he was practically immobile. Against Dallas on Monday night, Barber went to the turf after a rare fumble. He would get up and finish the game, but it served as a poignant reminder of why he is making this decision.
“I got hit in the head, which shouldn’t have caused me, you know, to start to lose consciousness a little bit,” Barber said. “But it did, so I realize the hits that I take are going take a toll.”
The Giants rushed for 155 yards against the Cowboys in that game. Barber accounted for 114 of them. Dallas entered the game with the league’s top rated defense against the rush, surrendering an average of 67 yards per game.
Barber has led the Giants in rushing for a record 70 straight games. Entering the league with perceptions as a third-down back, he’s worked diligently in the weight room to become what he’s called a “powerful and complete” back.
Although word of his retirement has surfaced only recently, Barber said he made the decision sometime around June or July. While he’s pondered leaving the game for some time, it was conversations, like the one he had with former NFL running back and Virginia Tech alumnus Barry Word, which made him realize he was doing the right thing.
“Barry just said the pain gets worse later,” Barber explained. “Now you feel ok, and even in a couple years. But after 10 or 15 years later, it gets worse.”
SIBLING RIVALRY “To be good, and to know that you’re good, its fun to play the game this way,” Barber said.
Perhaps no other sibling combination has enjoyed the success on and off the field as much as the Barbers. Their sense of humor and charismatic ways have led to several endorsement deals. And the two share a unique relationship.
Tiki calls his brother the “evil twin.” He claims Ronde is the one who always wanted to take a break from work and have fun while he was the studious one. But they balanced each other in that respect.
Naturally, you’d expect a sibling rivalry to be heated, and at times even jealous. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.
“I always get asked the question ‘Who’s better at this, or which one is better,’” Tiki said. “Ronde has always been, and even to this day, the better athlete than I am, than I’ve been. Circumstances have made me the more popular one, and that’s a relative description as well, because of the nature of my position. But he’s always been the better athlete.
“Whether it was running track, and he’s an national champion, baseball in little league and even as football players, he’s accomplished more,” Tiki said. “It is his passion and it will always be his passion and he’ll play [football] for as long as he wants.”
PERSUING THAT PASSION In order to understand where Tiki is coming from, you have to see where he says he is going. His thoughts run much deeper than football.
On Wednesday, he described meeting with people outside the realm of football. Whether it was lunch with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice or a visit to Israel on the behalf of Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, his life outside of shoulder pads is anything but boring.
“I’ve had a chance to see that part of the world,” Barber says of his trip to Israel. “And how that country is such a dichotomy. That was really eye opening and it was a seminal moment in my life to tell you the truth. About what goes on in the world and how a lot of the time, we as athletes get focused in our little niche which is sports, but there is a thousand things that are going on that sometimes we don’t pay attention to.”
He reassured the primetime news community that he is not looking to be the next Mike Wallace. He doesn’t see him that serious, but defines his niche as being more of the morning news.
His current contract as a guest host of Fox TV’s Fox and Friends extends through January. He is in discussions to extend that and would like to pursue television work that incorporates news, current events and sports. He will also continue to explore philanthropic interests in New York.
TEAM SUPPORT Barber says his teammates and coaching staff on the Giants understand and respect his decision to retire. Although he feels the team has a real shot at winning a Super Bowl this season, Tiki won’t allow the chase to get a ring to cloud his decision.
Brother Ronde doesn’t wear the ring. He keeps it in a box for safekeeping. The twins have always competed for success and that’s been something that’s fueled their careers.
“When [Ronde] would win I’d say ‘You know what, there’s no way I’m not winning. I’m not going home without something if he won,’” Tiki said. “I think that’s driven us all the way through, even now in the NFL. On another level and I think more importantly, he’s always been someone that gives me unbiased advice. And not what I want to hear but what I need to hear.
“If I should happen to, you know, not get one this season, it’s half a joke, but it’s not something that he’s going to rub in for the rest of our life. It’s just something that he can be proud of, and quite frankly, I’m just as proud of, because when he won that ring I couldn’t have been more happy for anybody else in the entire world.”
McCOWN ON THE MEND In other news, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden is pleased with the continued progress of quarterback Luke McCown, who is working his way back from a knee injury he suffered in June.
“It’s been pretty good,” Gruden said of McCown. “He ran thee sets of plays today, and it was good for him. His mobility looks okay. I think his confidence level is the most important thing right now, and it’s coming back.”
Several players, including cornerback Juran Bolden (hip), defensive tackle Ellis Wyms (ankle), tight end Anthony Becht (foot), wide receiver/punt returner Mark Jones (hamstring), linebacker Shelton Quarles (knee), defensive end Simeon Rice and wide receiver Maurice Stovall (back) are listed as questionable. Bolden and Wyms missed practice on Wednesday. Quarterback Chris Simms (Splenectomy) is out.