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A comeback no more for Tiki Barber

Former Giants running back Tiki Barber is working

Former Giants running back Tiki Barber is working out at Carini's House of Iron in Pine Brook, N.J. as part of his training program to return to the NFL after retiring four years ago. (June 27, 2011) Photo Credit: Bruce Gilbert

We sensed from the start that attempting a comeback after four years away from the game was a bad idea for Tiki Barber. The fact that no team even came close to signing him was ample proof that Barber's dream of playing again was ill-fated and just another disappointment to be added to his post-NFL career life. 

The closest Barber came to suiting up in an NFL uniform was a few weeks ago in Miami, where the Dolphins did him a favor by kicking the tires in a tryout. Barber left Miami without a contract, and he never got another call. 

The feeling here is that Barber felt the Steelers would be a viable option, especially after he got a good vibe from Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin when the two chatted during Super Bowl week in Dallas last February. But Tomlin never did offer a job, and Barber, who admitted that he needed football more than football needed him, just waited and waited ... and no one else called. 

At least no one from the NFL. The one coach who did express an interest, former Giants coach Jim Fassel, who is now coaching the UFL's Las Vegas Locomotives, left a message telling Barber he'd be willing to offer him a job. Fassel told me a a couple weeks ago that he was there for Barber more as a friend than a coach, and was willing to just chat with Barber, even if the running back wasn't interested in playing for pro football's minor leagues. 

But Barber never even called him back. 

In fact, Barber hasn't spoken publicly since going on a media blitz a few months back advertising his services. Newsday's Neil Best did a story on him. So did USA Today. HBO did a piece on him. Sports Illustrated, too. 

Now? Radio silence from the Giants' all-time leading rusher. 

It would have been a great story to see him come back, but the reality of today's NFL, where younger and cheaper is now preferable to older and more expensive. And in fairness to Barber, I think he could have at least helped out a team as a third-down back. 

Remember, he retired four years ago at the top of his game and injury-free. He was hoping to pursue a lucrative television career, but his run with NBC didn't last long. Especially not after he ripped Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning just months before the two went on to win the Super Bowl without Barber. And after his marriage fell apart, he became fodder for back-page headlines. He was even booed by Giants fans when he was inducted into the team's Ring of Honor last season. 

The hope here is that Barber gets his life together, both personally and professionally, and eventually reconnects with the Giants in a positive way. The all-time leading running back in franchise history is a pariah around his former team, with much of the animosity brought on by his negative comments about the team after his career had ended. 

I'm not sure that day will ever come when he can get back into the team's good graces. But it would be a shame for all parties if it didn't happen. 


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