Receiver Plaxico Burress isn’t the only former Giant who’ll be returning to the NFL in 2011. In addition to the guy who shot his gun off in a Manhattan nightclub, a player known for shooting his mouth off wants to play again. And while it looks unlikely that Burress will be back with Big Blue, it’s even more unlikely that Tiki Barber will ever wear the lower case ‘n’ and ‘y’ on his helmet.
Barber, who retired one year too early (then again, perhaps the Giants wouldn’t have won Super Bowl XLII if Tiki was still on the team), has decided to do after four seasons out of the game that which many believed Barry Sanders eventually would do. And Barber had become almost as effective as Sanders in the final years of Tiki’s career, with three straight years of more than 2,000 yards rushing and receiving. (Sanders only accomplished that feat twice in his career — including the season in which he rushed for more than 2,000 yards.)
Barber’s former teammates have differing opinions regarding his return. Former Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce, who was more than hip deep in the incident that resulted in Plaxico’s incarceration, advocates a “buyer beware” position. “He’s not going to do anything for your team,” Pierce tells L. Jon Wertheim in an intriguing new profile of Barber that appears in the new issue of Sports Illustrated.
Former Giants defensive end Michael Strahan disagrees. “He didn’t leave because he was a beat-up bum on the end of the bench,” Strahan tells Wertheim. “Let me tell you, he worked. Love him or hate him, he earned every yard. . . . Yeah, he can still help a team.”
“Physically he can probably do it,” an unnamed former Giant says. “[B]ut the locker room? I mean, Tiki is a complex guy.”
Complex is the right word. He’s a guy smart enough to outsmart himself, as evidenced by this clumsy quote regarding Barber’s time hiding out in the attic of the house of his agent, Mark Lepselter, after word broke of Barber’s disintegrated marriage and affair with a former NBC intern: “Lep’s Jewish, and it was like a reverse Anne Frank thing.”
When it comes to Barber’s return to the NFL after multiple years away from the game, plenty of his former teammates, coaches, and colleagues surely are privately hoping that it’s like a reverse Mike Vick thing.