The New York Giants' all-time leading rusher walked away from the game after the 2006 season. That despite the fact a 30-year-old Tiki Barber was coming off a 1,662-yard campaign. He retired to pursue a greatly hyped broadcasting career that fizzled quickly.
Making matters worse, the Giants would go on to win two Super Bowl titles within five years of Barber's departure, the first coming in their very first season sans Tiki.
Barber still says he doesn't have any regrets. In fact, when Bleacher Report caught up with the three-time All-Pro recently while he was promoting his newest venture at the Blogs with Balls conference in Toronto, Barber went as far as to suggest that the Giants wouldn't have won the Lombardi Trophy had he stuck around for the 2007 season.
Bleacher Report: Not sure how closely you've been watching the Giants, but what are your thoughts on the backfield situation with Andre Brown breaking out a few weeks ago?
Tiki Barber: Andre took advantage of an opportunity. I know a lot about that because that's how I got my career started in college. The starter pulled a hamstring, I started and ended up being the starter for the rest of my career. The same thing happened in the NFL. When Sean Payton became our offensive coordinator, he changed our offense a little bit in my fourth year, which gave me the opportunity to excel. So I understand that it's not going to be perfect. You're going to go through a lot of failure, but eventually if you hang on long enough you're going to get an opportunity, and you have to be ready for it. He was absolutely ready for it. It's disruptive a little bit with the Giants because Ahmad has been so good, so they have to play him. From Andre's standpoint, it's unfortunate because he's splitting carries now. And he's not that fantasy star that everyone wants him to be.
B/R: I don't know if you've weighed in on this, but what did you think about the whole cold-tub controversy with Jason Pierre-Paul and Prince Amukamara? You played for Tom Coughlin. Is this stuff common?
TB: Stuff like that happens all the time. We assume that coaches have control and authority over every incident that happens in training camp or whatever it may be, but they don't. They often delegate and let things happen as they just naturally happen. And that's an instance that naturally happens in probably a lot of places around the league.
B/R: But that doesn't make it a good thing, does it? Is it good or bad, in your opinion?
TB: It's good for the team, and I think even Prince said that. However, when it becomes public, perception changes. And because of social media, perception of things that are normally sheltered from the public are now out there.
B/R: Anything like that ever happen to you? Or did you do anything like that?
TB: No, I was never a hazer. And even when I was young, people viewed me as an intellectual...so they didn't pick on me. They said, "He's a little different, let's leave him alone." For instance, they make you sing a song. So you'd have to sing your [fight song] for whatever school and then something else. I sang The Beatles' Help!. They were looking at me like, "What are you singing? We don't know this song."
B/R: Can the Giants repeat?
TB: Of course they can, because they have the most important position solidified in quarterback. Yes they can win. Will they go through struggles? Of course. Just like they did last year. We look at them as a Super Bowl champion and assume that they were the best team all year in the National Football League, and quite honestly they weren't. They struggled at times, and in fact if it wasn't for winning that Jet game they probably wouldn't have been in the playoffs. But there's something about them. There's a resiliency, and they have character. It permeates from their head coach and obviously goes through Eli [Manning] and disseminates through the rest of the team. That makes them a team that you can never count out. Even if they're .500 halfway through the year, they're dangerous because you know they can score points, you know they can come from behind. They're mentally tough and they can make a run when it's necessary.
B/R: I know you've been asked this before but I need to hear it straight from you. Do you regret walking away when you did?
TB: Absolutely not.
B/R: But you wanted a ring badly, no?
TB: People want to judge my career based on my lack of a championship. And it's really interesting, because if you look at all the great Giants in the history of the Giants, they all have championships except for me. I think I stand alone in that regard.
B/R: How do you feel about that?
TB: I don't have regrets because I left for a reason. I wasn't willing to commit to the time and the effort that I had to spend in offseasons to prepare. I wasn't willing to commit to the grind of a 16-game season and my body, I felt, couldn't stand up to it. Tertiarily, there were so many other things that I wanted to do and was eager to do that I had to make a personal decision. People don't want to hear it, but if I played, I don't think they would have went to the Super Bowl. Because the dynamics of the team shifted when I left, and Eli became that guy who had to take all the pressure on his back. And at the time, incorrectly, I didn't think he could handle it. And that's famously exploited in New York media. But he did, and that's a credit to him. And I can do nothing but commend him because he's done it multiple times over multiple years.
B/R: You ever talk to Barry Sanders about leaving early?
TB: I actually did talk to Barry Sanders prior to me retiring, and Curtis Martin.
B/R: What did they tell you?
TB: At some point, when your mind tells you that you can't do it, then your body follows what your mind says. So my mind was telling me I don't want to do this anymore. In 2005, my mind was telling me I don't want to do it anymore. I played one more year, and I couldn't do it anymore. Eventually I was either going to get hurt or be a detriment to my team. And so walking away was the best thing for me, and you could argue it was the best thing for the Giants.