Posted by Ryan Wilson
Sometimes it's hard to believe that Ronde and Tiki Barber are twin brothers. Ronde, a cornerback with the Buccaneers for 14 seasons, has quietly plodded along, often playing at a Pro Bowl level. Tiki's 10-year career with the Giants, on the other hand, was as much about him letting you know he was the smartest guy in the room as it was about his on-field production.
Tiki retired in 2006 to take a job with NBC, where he appeared to be on the fast track to the Today Show. He wasted little time taking shots at his former team, which became all the more ironic when the Giants won the Super Bowl a year after Tiki retired.
But it wasn't long before Tiki's world began to crumble around him. In April 2010, he left his eight-months-pregnant wife for a 20-something former NBC intern, and a few months later NBC decided not to renew his Football Night in America contract.
Then, in March 2011, Tiki announced he was un-retiring from football, which given the way he left the game, made everyone think he probably needed the money.
Well, it turns out that recent events in Barber's life have left him battling depression, and he needs football to lift him out of the doldrums. According to the Associated Press, Barber said he was unable to deal with losing his $2 million per year job with NBC.
In an interview with HBO set to air Tuesday, Barber says, "I remember there were days where I would literally wake up, have coffee, get something to eat and sit on the couch and do nothing for 10 hours. I started to shrivel. I didn't have that confidence. I didn't have the, that aura anymore."
Barber also speaks publicly about his marriage, saying that, "It was in trouble for a long time. And we decided to get separated. But (former wife) Ginny got pregnant in the middle of it. And a lot of people think children save marriages; sometimes it makes it worse. And we split soon after she was pregnant."
It didn't help that he immediately started dating Traci Johnson, who was 23 at the time. Six months after Barber left his wife Johnson wrote on crushable.com: "I knew that Tiki didn't leave Ginny when she was eight months pregnant for me. I knew that his relationship had deteriorated before my relationship with him was even a thought in his mind."
In the court of public opinion, none of that mattered. The New York tabloids killed Barber, which was made easier since he didn't do much to endear himself to the media during his playing days. Also not helping: recent comments comparing himself to Anne Frank.
Now Tiki is looking for football, the sport he left while in his prime, to fill the void created by subsequent failures, both personally and professionally.
"I crafted this career, right?" he said. "And I had gotten to the point where I was right where I wanted to be and then I failed. It's hard to deal with. … [But] I need to prove to myself that I can be successful at something. I know I'm going to be successful as a football player. I don't know why. The odds say 'No.' I'm 36 and I haven't played in four years. But I just know."
The Buccaneers and Steelers have been mentioned as potential landing spots for Tiki -- Ronde is still in Tampa and Mike Tomlin, a former Bucs defensive backs coach now the coach in Pittsburgh, is close with Barber. The Steelers seem unlikely to take a flyer on an over-the-hill running back with more baggage than upside, but Bucs coach Raheem Morris said recently that "You can't close the door … anybody who can help your team you want to look into it."
Sports are as much about overcoming adversity as the wins and losses. And while it's easy to point to Michael Vick and say, "See, if he can do it Tiki can, too, right?" The difference: Vick possesses skills that defy comprehension, and still people were skeptical he'd be able to play in the NFL after his stint in prison. Barber is 36, and, as we've mentioned countless times before, it's much easier to replace a running back than, say, a left tackle, cornerback or franchise quarterback.
Yes, anything's possible, but the odds are stacked against Tiki.
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