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If NFL Lockout Lingers, Tiki Barber Could Head to UFL

July 9th, 2011 at 9:40 AM
By Serena Sanderson

While the New York Giants currently hod the rights to Tiki Barber’s contract, it’s been made abundantly clear that they have no interest in returning him to the team. In fact, Giants management has said that they plan to release Barber and make him a free agent as soon as the lockout ends. Barber finally admitted that he doesn’t want to return to New York either. He announced earlier this week that he has his sights set on Pittsburgh and Tampa.

New York Giants runningback Tiki Barber attends a news conference following his final NFL football game in Philadelphia, in this January 7, 2007 file photo. The all-time leading rusher, took the first step towards returning to the NFL on Tuesday and ending a four-year retirement. Barber filed paperwork with the league to remove him from the reserve-retirement list, according to a report on Sports Illustrated magazine’s website, clearing the way for a return. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine/Files (UNITED STATES – Tags: HEADSHOT SPORT FOOTBALL)

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that Tiki has his sights set on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Both have good programs with solid running games. The problem? Neither of them want a 36-year-old has been running back that hasn’t seen the field since 2006. He may have been the Giants all-time leading rusher and second in receptions when he was inducted into the ring of honor in October, but that doesn’t mean he can still do it.

Not only has he not played an NFL down since 2006, but Barber comes with a lot of baggage. His divorce from his wife of 11 years cost him dearly. And while he now proudly displays his new girlfriend and former NBC intern as arm candy at charity events, what does it say about his character that he was willing to leave his pregnant wife and two sons for a woman more than 10 years younger than him? And after all his talk of wanting to set a good example for his kids and feeling like his own father abandoned his family. What a joke. If he’s okay with lying about his personal life, what about his professional life? How committed is he to playing football?

While fans and analysts alike believe that Tiki’s desire to return to the NFL is because his divorce cost him so much, his mother believes differently. She said that the critics and skeptics are wrong, that this is all about Tiki and has nothing to do with the money. Of course it’s all about Tiki, isn’t it always? Enter the United Football League (UFL). If it’s really not about the money, the UFL is a much better fit for the likes of Tiki Barber than the NFL.

Former New York Giants coach, Jim Fassel, now coaches the Las Vegas Locomotives in the UFL. Recently, he reached out to Tiki to see if he would be willing to enter the UFL if he NFL lockout continues.

“Tiki always kept himself in great shape,” Fassel said. “There will definitely be an adjustment period for him to get in the flow of things and getting his body used to being hit again.

“If they don’t have as much time, starting players are going to get most of the reps. There is not going to be a lot of time for guys who need to prove themselves.” (nfl.com)

He’s got a point. The longer the lockout continues, the less time guys like Tiki Barber are going to have to prove themselves to NFL coaches and owners, and the less likely those guys are to get signed. And the less time a body that hasn’t taken a hit in five years will have to recover and acclimate to those hits again.

UFL players salaries are a mere fraction of what NFL players make. Wikipedia states that,

“In 2010, players earned $6,250 per game, for a total of $50,000 in the regular season; participants in the 2010 UFL Championship Game were paid a total of $10,000 each, with an additional $10,000 going to each player on the winning team. Starting quarterbacks earned a $200,000 salary.”

Well, Barber isn’t a quarterback so he won’t be making the maximum offered to players. At a minimum, he’d be making $50,000 a year. Definitely pennies compared to the $6 million salary he made in 2005. But it’s not about the money, right? So he says. So his mom says. But as always with Tiki Barber, his actions speak louder than his words. Barber has always known the right thing to say when he wanted to, but his actions have often contradicted his words and caused turmoil among fans and media alike.

Here’s the thing, there’s probably a team in the NFL that would be willing to take a chance on Tiki Barber. It makes me sick to think that it’s true, but there are plenty of teams willing to take risks in the league so I can’t believe that it’s impossible. What Tiki is going to have to realize is that fans hate him and he’s going to have to learn to deal with that. He’s also not going to make nearly as much money as he did before, regardless of where he gets signed. His best option, if he really wants to play football for any number of years, is to go to the UFL. Play there, be at the top of the league, earn a few bucks in the process, and sleep well at night knowing you made the right decision.

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