A Conversation with Tiki Barber

No one epitomizes the Giants and New York more than Tiki Barber. He symbolizes all that New York's about – hard work earning just rewards. How did Barber respond after earning his first Pro Bowl trip? By working even harder this offseason. Barber took a few minutes out of his busy camp schedule to sit down with TGI for an exclusive interview.

Q: How has year two under Tom Coughlin been?

A: I think collectively as a team we've come toward him and he's come toward us a little bit. We all understand what he's trying to do and his philosophies. Last year, everything was new. Any kind of change brings some resistance. This year, I think we're all pretty much on the same page and it's showing. There's not that underlying tension that was widely reported on last year.

Q: How has this camp gone for you?

A: This is nine camps for me, and every year they seem longer and more tedious. Although technically this is the shortest one yet, only three-and-a-half weeks. But with two kids now – A.J.'s three, Chason's one – it gets harder to leave them and not see them. But this is part of my job, part of the grind I have to go through to be ready for the season.

Q: You continue to get in better shape each offseason?

A: I have to, I'm getting older. That means you're really old. When you're younger you rebound quicker. Your body recovers. But when you're older, it takes a lot longer. I feel that if I'm not in great shape, I put myself in a detrimental position once the season starts. Sundays take a toll on you if you're not ready for it.

Q: What specifically did you do to stay younger this offseason?

A: I worked with the same guy I worked with last year (Joe Carini, former Mr. New Jersey). He's a maniac. But we put on a lot of muscle. I gained a lot of strength. He has me doing a lot of different things. It's made me a better player and a stronger player. I think that was a big reason for my success last season.

Q: How much better is this offense going to be?

A: Just on paper, we're better because of the weapons we have now in Plaxico (Burress) and Amani (Toomer) being healthy, losing some weight. Jeremy (Shockey) seemingly is back to his rookie attitude. If Eli (Manning) comes along, we have a real chance. We have depth on our offensive line, which is something we've never had. This offense has an opportunity to be explosive. We're still in the growing and learning phases, especially Eli with his wideouts and me adjusting to Kareem (McKenzie).

Q: Are you guys starting to gain more confidence?

A: I think a little bit. I don't think we have a complete identity yet. I don't think we know what our major strengths and weaknesses are going to be. But we're starting to get there and feel confident in ourselves. We know we have a chance and that's all that you can ask for.

Q: How has making the Pro Bowl changed things for you?

A: It was a free trip. Seriously, it's the ultimate in recognition from your peers and your contemporaries, the coaching staffs and the fans. It just adds on a layer of appreciation to what we try to do. It was cool, especially since my brother (Ronde) went as well. It was the first time twins went, and the third time for brothers. It was unique, something to put in the history books, something to remember.

Q: More pressure on you now to get back?

A: Not at all. I've been once. Now it's about the other things. There are certain things you want to do when you play this game: make some money, make a name for yourself, go to a Pro Bowl and win a Super Bowl. I've done most of those, there's one more I have to do.

Q: How was the trip to Israel?

A: I had a busy offseason. Getting to host Fox & Friends and hosting some of those other shows. I had a chance encounter with Shimon Peres in the City. He invited me to Israel to come see his country and see some of the sports programs he has over there to integrate Palestinian and Israeli children and help in small ways to bridge that cultural gap that everyone knows about. It was an important and eye-opening trip for me to take. You can read about it and see it on television, but experiencing it was something completely different. I have an appreciation for the struggle that goes on over there.

Q: What's it like to be Tiki Barber living in New York City?

A: It's actually kind of cool because I'm somewhat anonymous because the City is so big. I have 12 million neighbors. There are celebs all over the place. We're not treated as these objects. It's just like we're all neighbors. People will just say ‘Hey Tiki' like they know me and I don't even know who they are. People don't make you feel uncomfortable. It's a unique city and we're very glad we're here.

Q: You hit the big 3-0 in April. How much longer are you going to do this?

A: I don't know. We'll see how long my body holds out. Thirty is just a number. It's how I feel and how I perceive my worth on this field that'll keep me playing. Once I feel like I can't do it anymore, I'll do something else. That's one of the great things I love about New York is that I've had so many opportunities to do so many things that when I decide to walk away there are plenty of doors that I've already opened.

Q: When you were a kid, did you ever envision becoming the all-time leading rusher in Giants history?

A: No, not at all. Especially since I was a Redskins fan. Not a chance. I'm proud of it. It's something that's a big accomplishment for me. Thinking back nine years ago, with the perception people had of me, it's an accomplishment. And it's kind of cool to know that every yard I gain and every step I take this year, it's another record. But that'll all ring hollow to me unless I get a Super Bowl ring. That's how you're remembered. That's how you become legend.

Q: Is this a playoff team?

A: I think it is. I think it is. If we stay healthy I think so. I think we've had playoff teams the last couple of years but injuries have decimated us and kept our stars off the field. When that happens, you can't win. We're close. I think we have the components this year to do it.

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