Behind Enemy Lines: Tiki Barber

Behind Enemy Lines: Tiki Barber talks to the Washington media before what may be his last NFL game.

Q: How have you been able to perform so well as you've gotten older?
A
: "I have gotten slower, I just have gotten a little bit better I think. It is a combination of a lot of things. This staff has been great in working with me, especially Coach Ingram, in ball security which plagued me earlier in my career. Also I learned about working out differently, for example power lifting as opposed to the regular kinds of work outs that we have been doing here. That increased my explosiveness a lot. It made me more durable, able to run through tackles, and in some ways made me a little more of a compact runner which made me faster."

Q: When did you decide to start training differently?
A: "It was Coach Coughlin's first year. In my first meeting with Coach Ingram, my running backs coach, he asked me how strong I was. I couldn't have told him because lifting was not a priority in my life. My manager and I found a strength coach in New Jersey and we went to work. It made a huge and immediate impact."

Q: Do you remember thinking anything when Barry Sanders walked away, about how you could never do something like that?
A: "I do remember that happening and saying, ‘This guy is at the peak of his career.' Obviously, they hadn't been putting winners on the field up in Detroit, so you can see how that may have come into effect. He was a great player and ironically I had a chance to talk to Barry in the off season on one of my radio shows and I asked him about that. He said, ‘You know what Tiki, after a while I realized that this is a young mans game and it is hard to recover. Also you start to lose your passion a little.' That resonated with me in some ways. I had experienced some of the same things with football and wanting to go do the other things in life that I have been preparing for."

Q: Have you lost your passion for football?
A: "Absolutely not, because on Sunday afternoons I am as competitive and as passionate a person as there comes. During the week I am sitting in a meeting and instead of being solely focused on the Washington Redskins I will be thinking about other things. In the off season for instance I had a chance to come down your way for the White House Correspondants dinner. These things became more important to me than being up here working out. I knew that it was becoming time for me mentally and couple that with the beatings I have taken as a running back in this league, it made sense to me on a personal level and it was something I was eager to do."

Q: Have you finalized your post-career plans?
A: "We are pretty close. We are probably a week away from making an ultimate decision. I am so excited to get involved in the next level of my life. Football has been phenomenal. It was a great place and I think I found a pretty good jumping off point to start the next stages of my life."

Q: Did you think about the fans when you made the decision to retire?
A: "We live in a culture where sports is paramount in a lot of peoples lives. There is a lack of understanding about us on a personal level. They see us on Sunday afternoon but they don't see us Monday through Saturday where my body is broken down, I can barely walk and I can't play with my kids. Until you walk a mile in one of our shoes and take the physical, emotional and mental beatings that we take it is hard to make a judgment about it. I understand that. It is a dream I am living. It is the greatest job in America. How could I want to walk away from it? I understand that and I understand people's confusion about it. The greatest thing about human nature is that you get to make your own decisions, you have free will and you can try to explain it as best you can."

Q: Is the Hall of Fame important to you?
A: "I don't know. It is a subjective honor and something that I would love to achieve. It is not what I played the game for. I wanted to win championships, be a good teammate and accomplish a lot as a player and a person. I think I have done that in New York with everything I have been involved with philanthropically and otherwise. If the Hall of Fame comes, that will be great. If it doesn't, I am not going to cry over it. Hopefully in years to come, I will be up there on that stage introducing my brother. That will be worth it just as a proud moment for me."

Q: Have you thought about htis possibly being your last game?
A: "Yes, I do. We have been on an unfortunate slide. As strange as it may sound after six losses the last few weeks, we still control our destiny. That is our motivating factor right now. The knowledge of once this next season starts, the playoff season, the regular season is wiped away. Obviously, there are things you take from it and things you learn from it. Next season is what we are looking forward to and we have to put together one game in a tough environment, because Washington is playing phenomenal football, and get a win. But I've been a huge fan of Joe Gibbs my entire life. I grew up in Roanoke and was an enormous fan of the Redskins and particularly Joe Gibbs. It's ironic and cool that my last [regular-season] game is in my home neck of the woods against my favorite coach growing up.''

Q: What turned your career around and made you the player you are now?
A: "It is crazy because in my first three seasons as an NFL player I didn't have 1,000 yards. Then in 2000 Sean Payton, now head coach of New Orleans, became our offensive coordinator. He has been great, as he is now, of utilizing the strengths of his players and finding the things that work best and calling them over and over again. We put in a lot of misdirection plays and used me a lot as a receiver out of the backfield, very similar to what they are doing with Reggie Bush right now. It put me on a path to where I have become as a player and I am grateful for that."


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