Tiki Barber's latest appearance on the media circuit -- a radio call-in spot with Mike Francesa on WFAN-AM in New York -- turned contentious Wednesday.
The tone of the interview changed when Francesa asked Barber, 36, if he wants to come back to play in the NFL because he missed the game or because he had a "big failure" in broadcasting during his tenure at NBC.
"I think you're throwing a little bit of hyperbole out there, Mike, because I didn't have a 'big failure' in broadcasting," said Barber, who was joined by his agent, Mark Lepselter. "I think if you laid the stage as you and Chris at the time tried to, that I was (to) be the next Matt Lauer, yeah, you could say it was a failure. But I had a lot of fulfillment at NBC. I did a lot of great stories that I think had impact over the three years that I was there. ... I think it was a learning experience. It's unfair for you to label it that way."
Francesa responded: "There's no way around it, that's a failure."
Barber countered: "You're putting it in simple terms. And if that's how you need to do it, Michael, fine, you put it in simple terms. But I don't consider my time at NBC a failure."
Barber revealed to Armen Keteyian on HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" in an interview that aired earlier this week that his failures off the field after his retirement from the New York Giants in 2006 led to a year-long battle with depression.
Barber has spent the past four months working out in an attempt to make a comeback, although his chances rest on the league and its players reaching a new collective bargaining agreement.
At one point, Francesa said he was told the former Giant showed an unprofessional attitude.
"The guys at NBC, and I know all of them, they felt that you did a bad job, and they said that they thought you were entitled," Francesa said. "I mean, they were not complimentary about your work. Let's not run away from that; this is part of the story."
Responded Barber: "If you tell me who it was and you get that person on air, I will have a debate with them. I think that's cowardly of someone to talk behind someone's back and not tell them, because the truth of the matter is I don't know what I could have done better at NBC. I did great stories for them.
"Mike, you have a lot of people who don't respect you because of the way you do things. I respect you because I think you have a great knowledge about sports and about the game of football. Do you always do it the correct way? I'm not sure. Do you interview people the correct way, because we're talking about my life here. I'm not so sure."
At one point, Lepselter said he had a conversation in 2007 with then-Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen about Barber coming out of retirement, so the topic should shift to the player's comeback.
"I'm sure it probably has to do with the fact that I criticized Tom Coughlin, and he goes and wins a Super Bowl," Barber said. "Or the conversations that I had about Eli Manning (that) got blown out of proportion. Things like that (where) people felt like I, as someone with knowledge, was attacking somebody that I just left, when it really wasn't. It was just giving my opinion about things, and I've always been opinionated."