Considering that he just got engaged to his beautiful 24-year-old girlfriend, you'd think that Tiki Barber would be having a great week.
In the latest installment of his voluminous "Monday Morning Quarterback" column for Sports Illustrated, NFL scribe Peter King briefly touched on the death throes of Barber's bid to re-enter the league after retiring following the 2006 season. With NFL teams finalizing their rosters before the onset of the 2011 season, Barber's phone never rang. King tried to reach Barber or his agent Mark Lepselter for comment.
I tried to reach Barber on Sunday, but he wasn't talking. I hear he's devastated that no team gave him a chance. You might wonder if teams would bring him in after the first game of the season, so his contract wouldn't be guaranteed, and that could still happen. But with no team calling Lepselter with even a hint of interest, it's more likely teams would start with backs who've been in some football competition this summer.
Although King was unable to get a hold of Tiki, who admitted earlier this summer that he "needed football" and had battled depression since his retirement, he did manage to speak with Lepselter, who described Barber's camp as being "flabbergasted" at the lack of interest in the three-time Pro Bowl running back.
Speaking to the New York Post after King's column was published, Lepselter attempted to downplay King's characterization of his client's emotional distress. The agent did, however, concede that Barber "has moved forward accordingly" now that the NFL has made it clear that he will remain a "former NFL player" in all news stories generated by his upcoming wedding.
For his part, King believed that the Steelers were going to bring Barber on board but nothing materialized. The Dolphins worked Barber out, but ultimately traded for Reggie Bush and brought in Larry Johnson to bolster their backfield. That the 32-year-old Johnson was cut doesn't likely bode well for the 36-year-old Barber's prospects.
At this point, even the scrap heap is populated with running backs younger than Barber, who retired after a stellar 2006 campaign with the New York Giants to pursue a career in broadcasting. His 2,127 yards from scrimmage were the fifth most in the NFL that season. He had led the game in that stat the two previous seasons.
But not only are Barber's physical skills lightly regarded after being away from the game for so long, but his missteps as a broadcaster have called into question the presence he would bring into the locker room. After burning his bridges with many of his Giants teammates with his critical comments in the booth, Eli Manning came out this summer and said that he'd rather have Plaxico Burress return to the team than Barber.
Generally, veteran players looking to latch onto a ballclub for one last go around can sell themselves as role models and leaders. Given his public missteps, Tiki cannot even offer that to a potential employer.
Perhaps the downtrodden Barber would consider auditioning for a return to the NFL in the Canadian Football League or the USFL. Although moving to Saskatchewan so that he can try to reestablish himself with the Roughriders might be a hard sell to his new fiancee. Of course, signing Barber could also be a hard sell to the Roughriders.
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