Tiki Barber has decided to attempt an NFL comeback -- which surprised even the man who suggested it to the running back four years after his retirement.
Joe Carini, Barber's longtime trainer, told the New York Daily News on Tuesday that he casually broached the subject as the two watched the NFL playoffs in January.
Carini recalled turning to Barber, the New York Giants' all-time leading rusher, and saying, "Why the hell aren't you playing?"
"He looked at me and he says 'You're crazy as hell,'" Carani said.
Crazy, maybe. But Barber, the twin brother of Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber, already has filed the necessary papers with the league, according to the agency that represents him.
"After seeing how much fun Ronde is still having, it re-ignited my fire, and I'm looking forward to the challenge of seeing if I can get back to the level of where I was," Barber told NFL Network's and Fox Sports' Jay Glazer.
The Giants retain the rights to Barber, who will be 36 next season and has two years remaining on his contract, NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora reported. But the Giants said Tuesday that they will release Barber once the NFL and the NFL Players Association reach a new collective bargaining agreement.
"We wish Tiki nothing but the best, and when we are able to make the transaction, we will release him from our reserve/retired list," Giants spokesman Pat Hanlon said on his Twitter page.
Bucs coach Raheem Morris told The St. Petersburg Times that he hasn't spoke to general manager Mark Dominik about it, but he wouldn't rule out reuniting the Barber brothers. The two played together at the University of Virginia.
"You know me, we always discuss those guys who can help us," Morris said. "... I'm sure he can help someone, if not us, if it ever came to that."
Morris said he only has to look at Ronde, recently signed to a one-year deal, to know what type of player he would have in Tiki.
"When you're talking about those type of great players, you've always got to have interest," Morris said. "And if he's got the heart and the desire and the fire, I say you do it. It's no different than his brother. He's one of those guys who doesn't know when he's going to run out of gas."
Barber retired following the 2006 season after 10 seasons with the Giants. He subsequently was hired as a correspondent for NBC's "The Today Show" and "Football Night in America."
|Tiki Barber last played in the NFL during the 2006 season with the New York Giants. (Tom Mihalek/Associated Press)|
Carini admitted to the Daily News that he thought "it was insane" when Barber first revealed his intentions, but he now believes the former All-Pro remains physically capable of playing at football's highest level. For the past two weeks, Barber has been put through daily, intensive, two-hour workouts at Carini's gym in Pine Brook, N.J.
"He was doing nothing a few weeks ago," Carini said. "He was riding a bike and doing spin classes for God sakes. But he's got something left in the tank. If he didn't, I would've told him a week ago. I know he can get it done."
Carini said Barber is leg-pressing nearly 1,000 pounds, squatting 800 pounds and dead-lifting more than 600. While below the levels of Barber's playing days, the trainer said his client is continuing to improve.
Barber currently weighs 198 pounds, 10 below his weight during his final season. The plan is to have 5-foot-10 Barber up to 210 pounds by the end of the month.
"It's all still there, man," Carini said. "The guy is strong is hell. He has no injuries, his knees are great, his back is fine, no shoulder irritations, his ankles are good. It's like when I first met him again."
Barber was drafted by the Giants in the second round (36th overall) in 1997 and originally was used a third-down, change-of-pace back. He caught 142 passes out of the backfield during his first three seasons before taking a larger role in the offense.
Barber started 12 games in 2000 and recorded his first 1,000-yard rushing season. He caught a career-high 72 passes the following season, despite missing two games. In 2002, he rushed for 1,387 yards, beginning a streak of five consecutive seasons with over 1,200 yards.
In 2006, Barber's last season, he rushed for 1,662 yards -- the second-most in his career -- and added 465 yards on 58 receptions.
Barber has 10,449 rushing yards with 55 touchdowns and 586 receptions for 5,183 yards in his NFL career.
Barber's second career with NBC fizzled, and he didn't help himself with New York fans by criticizing coach Tom Coughlin and former teammate Eli Manning, saying the quarterback lacked some leadership skills.
Barber was booed by fans last season when the Giants unveiled their ring of honor in their new $1.6 billion stadium.
SI.com reported Barber left his wife of 11 years, Ginny, for 23-year-old Traci Johnson, a former NBC intern. Ginny was eight months pregnant at the time. Soon after, NBC cited its morals clause and terminated Barber's contract, which reportedly paid him more than $300,000 per year.
In June 2010, The New York Post reported Barber was broke and couldn't pay his divorce settlement with his ex-wife.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.