The longer the lockout lasts, the more it could hurt former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber's chances of making an NFL comeback, one of his former coaches told USA Today in a story published Tuesday night.
Jim Fassel, who coaches the Las Vegas Locos of the United Football League and previously led the Giants, said a shorter training camp would be detrimental to Barber's chances. Fassel has reached out to Barber about potentially playing in the UFL.
"Tiki always kept himself in great shape," Fassel said. "There will definitely be an adjustment period for him to get in the flow of things and getting his body used to being hit again.
"If they don't have as much time, starting players are going to get most of the reps. There is not going to be a lot of time for guys who need to prove themselves."
Barber confirmed two cities he wouldn't mind proving himself in -- Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. The Steelers reportedly aren't interested, and according to a report Wednesday from The Tampa Tribune, neither are the Buccaneers. Were the Bucs to have a change of heart and sign him, Barber would be reunited with his twin brother, Ronde.
One team Barber won't play for is the Giants, who have wished him well. Quarterback Eli Manning, whom Barber was critical of during his stint as a broadcaster with NBC, went so far as to say wide receiver Plaxico Burress, recently released from prison, would be a better fit for the Giants.
That sentiment seems to be shared -- to say the least -- by many Giants fans, who booed Barber in October when the team added him to its ring of honor, despite his being the club's all-time leading rusher and No. 2 on its receptions list.
The fans' feelings no doubt had a lot to do with Barber's criticisms of the team, particularly coach Tom Coughlin as well as Manning during his NBC stint, and his very public and costly divorce from his wife of 11 years. The latter was compounded when it was reported Barber had left his then-pregnant wife for a former NBC intern.
The fallout sent Barber into a depressed state in which he would spend days in bed, watching television and eating. That low point, his agent said, eventually helped Barber bounce back.
"When you are getting beaten on in the court of public opinion -- he had become such a persona non grata -- you can play it that it doesn't affect you, but it affects you," Mark Lepselter said. "This re-lit a fire in his whole being."
As a result, Barber has pushed himself physically as never before, said his personal trainer, Joe Carini.
"Mentally, I've never seen him better," Carini said. "He wants to rock and roll."
His mother, Geraldine, disagrees with the skeptics who say her son has to come back because he needs the money after his divorce.
"Money is not the issue and never has been," Geraldine said. "This is about Tiki. This is about doing something for Tiki that he can do, that he can feel good about."