Well, this is it, my last Giant Insider diary – as a player, at least. I'm going to have to come back as a guest columnist. These are the things that I'm going to miss: the interactions with the people. That's how I've always been. I'm a people person. Despite my talents as a football player, it's the relationships I've developed over the last 10 years in the locker room, with the guys in the media – in particular you, KP – and the fans that are lasting. Those are the things I'll miss the most.
I didn't even think beforehand that this could be my last game. I honestly was thinking about what I could do to make it not be my last game. With maybe about three-and-a-half minutes left in the game, they were clearly moving the ball down to score and were well within field goal range. Jeremy Shockey put his arm around me and said, ‘It was a pleasure playing with you. You taught me a lot.' That was meaningful because that's all I ever wanted to do as a teammate was to pass on some of the things I've learned. To have Jeremy say that it meant a lot. I got that from a lot of guys. After the game I ran right over to Brian Westbrook and told him he was a stud; he's great. He's going to be the next great one. He has that playmaking and difference-making ability. He reminds me of me in a lot of ways. I also got a chance to speak with Brian Dawkins and Jeremiah Trotter and it was meaningful. There's probably no defense that I have respected more than the Philadelphia Eagles.
I don't really know if it's sunk in yet that I'm totally finished, but I don't really think about it that much. In my mind, I've been done for a while. You prepare yourself for the next thing and that next thing has usually been next season. But this year the next thing is not going to be next season. Being that I'm very comfortable with my decision to go on and do something else and I'm excited about it, it tempers any nostalgia that I may have.
It was really nice to be able to finish up so strongly. Criticism is something that I've never shied away from and I've never been afraid of, quite frankly. I'm honest, I answer questions, I tell you how I feel. I play as honestly as I speak. You either respect that or you criticize and people choose to criticize. But what it comes down to is whether or not I play well on the field. That's something I've always done and something I can never be criticized for.
People have been joking about me coming back. No one's been really serious about it. Jerry Reese kept coming up to me and saying, ‘We need to talk, you need to come back next year.' I think people realize how fortified I am in my decision and what it really means to me being able to walk away on my own terms – healthy, having a third phenomenal season in a row, my third Pro Bowl in a row, and defining myself and not letting other people or things define who I am. That means a lot to me.
I can't wait for the Pro Bowl. I'll get to play officially my last NFL game, be a teammate of my brother, be amongst my peers, some of the greatest players in this game, and get to soak it all in, literally.
As I leave, some people would say this is a team in turmoil and there are certain issues. But that's how it is on every team. I think we have a group of young guys mixed in with some veterans that, if they can find themselves and play the Giants style of football, which is a style of football that not a lot of people on this team know, they can be fine. Michael Strahan knows it. I know it. Amani Toomer knows it. Antonio Pierce knows it in a lot of ways, where till the last whistle you're putting every single inch and ounce of effort in you on the football field. If guys can do that, then they have a chance to be successful.
There is potential for more Giants-type players to come out of the group they have here now. I think Mathias Kiwanuka has the ability mentally to be that way. Osi (Umenyiora) has shown signs of it. Offensively, all the guys on the O-line without a doubt fight to the last tooth. That's what you need from those guys. I think we need to get that from some of our playmakers. I think Shockey has it when he's healthy. It's here. It just needs to be fortified in them. Essentially when the stuff hits the fan it needs to manifest itself and show itself.
I know it wasn't my decision to make, but I totally agree with the Giants' decision to keep Tom Coughlin. There's been a lot of turnover here the last couple years obviously with Wellington (Mara) and Bob (Tisch) passing away, the ownership hierarchy has changed. Ernie Accorsi is leaving this season so the GM situation is still uncertain. Tom made some good adjustments at the end of this year, bringing in Kevin Gilbride, who I think is a phenomenal coach as an offensive coordinator and is understanding as a teacher. Coach Coughlin is making steps in the right direction. I think they were right to have kept him just for the stability sake of it.
Believe it or not, I feel pretty good after yet another full season. Of course I have physical issues. My PCL, I had bone spurs in my knee that I played with all season, my joints ache. But I feel okay, which is a great thing. I got out on my own terms and I got out healthy. I'm proud of that.
The next stage of my life will be fun. I'll be doing something unique and hybrid between sports, news and entertainment. It'll be a chance to show a different side of me. Not just the great football player, but someone's who interested in the world and in people. That parallels my football career. I've never been just an Xs and Os, just go play football type of guy. I've always been interested in relationships and I think that'll serve me well in my next endeavors on television.
Player Diary: Tiki Barber
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