Despite Defeat, Barber Goes Out on Top

PHILADELPHIA – Eagles chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie proved to be every bit a class act after the Eagles' 23-20 wild card victory over New York. Lurie waited several minutes in the back of the Temple locker room, where post-game interviews were being held, to offer his congratulations and well wishes to Tiki Barber, who was conducting his final NFL press conference.

Barber, who finished his glorious, potential Hall-of-Fame career in New York's disappointing playoff defeat in Philadelphia, seemed somewhat relieved it was all over.

"I'm proud of what we did," said Barber, who posted 152 all-purpose yards in his career finale. "We hung strong, despite some inconsistencies and missed opportunities. Unfortunately they were just a little bit better. They go on and we go home."

Barber recognized that a close loss to Philly served as somewhat of a microcosm of his career.

"It's fitting in a lot of ways because this is one of the hardest places I've ever played," he said. "It was fitting in some ways to come down here and play this game, which ultimately was my last."

His teammates were clearly upset that they let Barber down.

"It hurts me as a player that we couldn't get him his ultimate goal and that was to win the NFL championship," Plaxico Burress said.

"Everyone respected Tiki's decision and the team rallied around his decision this year," tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said. "We really wanted to get him a win and it is a shame that we did not get it for him. He is going to be deeply missed next season."

Coughlin also admitted sadness at seeing Barber go.

"It's very difficult to see him go out under any circumstance," he said. "He has been a great player, great person to work with. He has been a tremendous football player and a solid, solid person in our locker room. It will be very sad to not see him in that Giant uniform again."

Jeremy Shockey admitted that Barber had a profound influence on his development.

"One of the greatest players I have ever played with," Shockey said. "It was just an honor to be around him. Him giving me advice on being a professional on and off the field. My first few years were kind of wild and he took me aside and gave me some good wisdom and I took that to heart. People that have that passion and heart are going to succeed in this league. He's definitely done that. He's not the fastest guy or the strongest guy or the biggest guy but he has twice the size of heart as any other guy in the league."

Barber enjoyed being able to exchange pleasantries with long-time adversaries like Jeremiah Trotter and Brian Dawkins one final time.

"Getting a chance to give my respects to Brian Dawkins and Jeremiah Trotter, both guys who beat me up over the years, who I've run around a couple times over the years and who have been my greatest challenge," he said. "It's lasting. Dawkins came up to me and said, ‘You're a warrior.' That means a lot to me coming from him because that's been his mentality and how he plays the game. It made me feel good."

Getting to compete against Barber for much of the last decade also made Philly's finest defenders feel good.

"I just told him that I loved him and you know, good luck in his second career, and that it has been great going against him," Trotter said.

Despite not bringing home the ultimate prize – a Super Bowl ring – Barber said he's still going out on top.

"For a long time I thought that was what was going to define my career," Barber said. "But that's not what is going to define me."

"It is one of the biggest reasons to play this game," said Ronde Barber, who was on hand to watch his twin brother's finale. "It is tough not to win a ring, but there are a lot of great players in the past that did not win one."

While Barber won't be around next season, he put his full support behind Coughlin.

"Coach Coughlin has done great things in his three years here," Barber said. "As a head coach you have to make difficult decisions. He made a very difficult one by replacing John Hufnagel two weekends ago. That's what you have to judge a man on. Not by what his reputation precedes him as, but what he does to make his guys better."

Gettin' away with murder

One of the toughest moments to take for Big Blue came during an exchange of personal foul calls in the second period. Jon Runyan, a perennial cheap-shot artist, blasted both Barry Cofield and Sam Madison unsolicited. When Cofield retaliated, the very questionable call from the officials was offsetting penalties. With the Eagles at their 37-yard line, the 15 yards the Giants were cheated out of could have come in very handy.

"I can't believe that," a frustrated Cofield said. "I took a shot but he had two in a row first. I didn't even see him coming at all. They want us not to retaliate. But as long as it's going to offset, why not take the first shot?"

"That's what happens, they always see the second guy," Madison added. "That's how (Runyan) plays. We expected that."

Post-season blues continue

The Giants' all-time playoff record dropped to 16-23. They have now lost their last four playoff games: Super Bowl XXXV, the 2002 Wild Card game in San Francisco, last year's game against Carolina and this year's loss in Philly. Their postseason road record dropped to 3-14. New York's last three road playoff games were in San Francisco before this year's season-ending defeat.

Wilkinson squeezed out

Despite suiting up for all 16 regular-season games, rookie linebacker Gerris Wilkinson was a healthy scratch in Philly. Wilkinson had 15 tackles and seven more on special teams during the season, yet Coughlin opted to go without him. Another interesting Coughlin decision was to suit up newly-signed CB R.J. Cobbs and sit veteran corner Frank Walker. There were no surprises among the rest of New York's inactives vs. the Eagles. They were: WR Michael Jennings, RB Robert Douglas, OL Steve Edwards, WR Darius Watts and DT Titus Adams. Tim Hasselbeck was the third quarterback.

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