|Tiki Barber and his agent were "flabbergasted" that no NFL teams were interested in his services. (Getty Images)|
It started back in March, when former Giants running back Tiki Barber announced that he was coming out of retirement to offer up his services to any NFL team in need of a 36-year-old, four years removed from his last snap and not particularly popular with his teammates (line forms to the right, please don't push).
Turned out, guys who had played with Barber couldn't get in front of a microphone fast enough to speak on his leadership skills.
“Tiki Barber, the football player, great player, will be very productive probably in certain situations,” ESPN analyst and former teammate Antonio Pierce said at the time. “Tiki Barber, the leader, the person in that locker room? He is not going to do anything for your team. Now if that is the guy you think you are bringing in, you might want to look in another direction.”
Weeks and months passed, but the story remained unchanged: former teammates had nothing nice to say about Barber (and twin brother Ronde's silence on his brother's comeback attempt was, well, pretty awkward), and NFL teams were uninterested.
Once the lockout ended and training camps opened, Barber had a grand total of one workout, with the Dolphins, who chose not to sign him instead settling on Larry Johnson (who was subsequently cut a short time later).
Then, on Saturday, teams had to reduce their rosters to 53 players, and the rest of the weekend was spent rejiggering depth charts based on the names hitting the open market. The Bears signed former Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather, the Bengals added returner Brandon Tate, the Jets claimed wide receiver Mardy Gilyard, and the Ravens inked center Andre Gurode. Through it all, not one NFL team called Tiki.
Sports Illustrated's Peter King sent this tweet Saturday: "So 2,880 men went to NFL camps this summer; 1,696 made rosters. None named Tiki Barber. And on roster shuffle weekend, his phone never rang."
In King's Monday Morning Quarterback column, he expanded on Barber's plight.
"I tried to reach Barber on Sunday, but he wasn't talking. I hear he's devastated that no team gave him a chance. You might wonder if teams would bring him in after the first game of the season, so his contract wouldn't be guaranteed, and that could still happen. But with no team calling [Barber's agent Mark] Lepselter with even a hint of interest, it's more likely teams would start with backs who've been in some football competition this summer.
"Lepselter told me Sunday: 'We are flabbergasted that Tiki has not had an opportunity with any team, especially when rosters were at 90 players this year. I certainly thought some team would be intrigued to see what he had left in the tank.'"
We've been through this before but … why? Why would any team be intrigued by a 36-year-old with a history of rubbing teammates the wrong way? Where's the payoff? An NFL general manager can just sign an eager-to-prove-he-belongs 22-year-old with fresh legs and no sense of entitlement for very little money. That Barber is still on his couch is the exact opposite of flabbergasted.
So while Barber may still be out of work, there is good news: he's getting married! It gets better: there's a standing offer to join former coach Jim Fassel in the UFL.
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