In his most extensive remarks since announcing he was ready to come out of retirement after retiring from the Giants, Tiki Barber said he came close to joining the Buccaneers just months after he had retired from the Giants prior to the 2007 season.
Barber told Ian O'Connor of ESPNNY.com that he was approached by Bucs' head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen about coming out of retirement to help the team deal with injuries to running backs Michael Pittman and Cadillac Williams.
O'Connor writes that Barber and his agent, Mark Lepselter, met for 90 minutes in Tampa with Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen. By the end of the meeting, Barber was tempted to join his brother, Ronde, a Bucs cornerback, and end his retirement.
O'Connor writes that Barber had indeed told Gruden and Allen he would play, and they exchanged hugs and handshakes. Allen told Barber and Lepselter that he would contact the Giants to discuss compensation, since Barber's contractual rights were still held by New York.
In the end, Barber declined.
"Staying a Giant in retirement was very important to me," Barber said. "Playing with my brother is something we dreamed of doing for years, but I'd been brought up and nurtured in one organization. I saw it as a sacred thing."
Barber was in the first year of a multi-year deal with NBC, and was on the network's Football Night in America show, as well as a correspondent for the Today Show. He was since released from his NBC contract after the network concluded Barber had violated company policy by dating a fellow employee.
One postscript to O'Connor's piece: The Barber-Bucs dalliance constituted a violation of the NFL's tampering policy. Because Barber was still under contract to the Giants, the Bucs would have required permission from the Giants to speak with him. According to a source familiar with the Giants' situation at the time, the Bucs did not ask for such permission.
However, it is unlikely the Giants would pursue any tampering charges, since the conversastion happened four years ago and Gruden and Allen are no longer with the Bucs.
The Giants announced when Barber decided to come out of retirement that they had no interest in re-signing him.