Former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber was interviewed by Armen Keteyian on HBO’s Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel.
Barber, 36, who retired from the NFL four years ago said he lost his passion to do what it takes to play professional football. He is now trying to make a comeback this season. No running back has ever returned to the NFL after a four year absence.
When asked if he was surprised by the negative reaction he received after leaving the NFL, he said he was. He felt people were trying to dictate what he should do with his life.
One week after leaving football, Barber got what he called a “dream job” at NBC, but the job didn’t turn out as planned. People at NBC say they felt Barber thought he was entitled, which he denies, and eventually he was let go.
He also ran into trouble for remarks he made about Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning criticizing his leadership on the team. Giants fans even booed Tiki at a game where he was being honored.
About six months after leaving the Giants, Barber’s marriage to his college sweetheart, Ginny Cha, started to fall apart. Although they were having difficulties, Ginny became pregnant.
Barber moved out and shortly after moved in with 23 year old NBC intern Traci Johnson.
“I didn’t think it was going to ruin my career,” Barber said.
At this point Barber had lost his career, his marriage and he had fallen out of favor with Giants fans. He felt the only thing that was working in his life was his relationship with Traci.
In February at the Super Bowl Barber ran into some old friends who encouraged him to come back to the NFL. He decided it was a good idea and has been preparing for his comeback ever since. His rigorous workouts have him feeling better than he’s felt in years.
“Not only am I gonna be on a team, I’m gonna be a big part of a team,” Tiki said.