420 Posted February 14, 2007 Share Posted February 14, 2007 Article1 Tiki's first TV tackle is Coughlin Wednesday, February 14, 2007 BY BRIDGET WENTWORTH Star-Ledger Staff NEW YORK -- If Tiki Barber succeeds as an NBC broadcaster, Giants coach Tom Coughlin might deserve some of the credit. According to Barber, Coughlin's tough tactics drove him out of pro football and into a television career. "He pushed me in the direction," Barber said yesterday after being formally introduced as a correspondent for "Today" and an analyst on "Football Night in America." "He kind of forced me to start thinking about what I wanted to do next." The former Giants running back said he's looking forward to sharing his opinions. He got an early start by taking on Coughlin's coaching style. While talking about how he'll remember his time with the Giants, Barber said "the principles of our head coach started to take a toll on me." Giants vice president of communications Pat Hanlon said neither Coughlin nor the team had any comment on Barber's remarks. Barber elaborated on the physical price he paid under Coughlin, a notorious taskmaster who has drawn criticism from Barber in the past. "There'd be days when I couldn't move, on Tuesday or Wednesday in practice," Barber said. "He'd get mad at me for going half-speed, and I'd say, 'Coach, I can't do it. I'm going to be out there, I'm never going to miss a practice, but I can't give you what you want all the time.' And he understood." Not often enough, according to Barber, who said he gave Coughlin a little advice on how he should proceed next season with the Giants. "I think he has to start listening to the players a little bit, and come their way a little bit," Barber said. "We were in full pads for 17 weeks, and with the amount of injuries we had, it takes a toll on you. You physically don't want to be out there when your body feels the way you do in full pads. "While it probably doesn't have a really detrimental effect on how you practice or play, it does on your mind, and if you lose your mind in this game, you lose a lot. That's something he has to realize, and I think he does." Barber was careful to say he has a "very good" personal relationship with Coughlin, whom he credited for coaching him during his best seasons. And it wasn't Coughlin's strict team rules that bothered Barber, who believes athletes need a disciplinarian for a coach. It was simply the physical demands that Barber could no longer deal with. "I never got breaks. I never got to just relax," he said. "And it took a toll on me." Barber also pointed out that at age 31, he was old for his position, and would not necessarily have continued playing had another man been his coach. Barber was, after all, a player who could see an immediate future in another field, and could walk away from football and right into a job. With network president Jeff Zucker and the chairman of NBC Sports Dick Ebersol at his side on the stage of Studio 3A at NBC Studios, Barber talked about fulfilling a dream in broadcasting. He plans on addressing issues of politics, health, education and technology on "Today." He has worked in broadcasting for years, beginning with a radio gig for WFAN in 1999 which segued into a morning sports anchor job for WCBS-TV. He remembered being so nervous during his first show that his hands rattled the newspapers he had in front of him on his desk. "I was shaking, staring straight ahead like a deer in the headlights," Barber said. "But I got better at it." Good enough to become a regular contributor to the Fox News show "FOX & Friends" and host of a satellite radio show. Barber, who signed a three-year deal with NBC, will do a brief apprenticeship with "Today" host Matt Lauer before starting on April 16, with an assignment for "Today" that is yet to be determined. Until then, he plans on vacationing in Mexico and taking his wife and sons to Disney World. And even though he knows he could have gotten through his press conference without bringing up the negative, without throwing out his thoughts on Coughlin, Barber thought it better to speak up. "It is what it is. It's the truth," he said. "And if the truth hurts you and makes you think certain things, then that's your problem. That's the truth for me. "Coach Coughlin was nothing but great for me as a player, but the grind took its toll on me and really forced me to start thinking about what I want to do next. That's not a bad thing, it's a good thing, at least for me it is. Maybe not for the Giants, because they lose one of their great players, but for me, it is." Notes: The Giants continued to clear out their medical ward yesterday by cutting KR/PR Chad Morton. The release of Morton, 29, came one day after the team cut T Luke Petitgout and LBs LaVar Arrington and Carlos Emmons -- all three of whom suffered numerous injuries in the past few years. Morton tore a knee ligament on Christmas Eve against the Saints. It marked the second time he tore a knee ligament in three years. Morton, who lost his job as kick returner midway through last season, had three years remaining on a contract he signed last spring. The deal included a small signing bonus, so his release won't have major salary-cap implications for the Giants. Staff writer Mike Garafolo contributed to this report. Bridget Wentworth may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org TIKI TODAY AND YESTERDAY Tiki Barber said yesterday Tom Coughlin's demanding style pushed him toward retirement. Well, the Giants' coach is merely one in a long list of factors Barber has cited for his leaving the NFL: Barber has told several media outlets his decision was based on the natural pounding any NFL running back -- not just those who are coached by Coughlin -- takes. He said he couldn't go through another off-season of preparing himself physically. "To do it again, from now to get through this season to get to another season, that's unfathomable to me, given how my body feels," Barber told The Star-Ledger in October. "There comes a time when it's your time." Late last year, Barber told USA Today he had decided last spring to retire after thinking about a June 2005 trip he made to Israel. "It gave me an eye-opening experience to the rest of the world," he said. Barber also told USA Today his decision was influenced by the deaths of Giants co-owners Wellington Mara and Bob Tisch in 2005. "They taught me to use my powers for good and that football isn't forever. I know I can make a difference in some way," he said. In an interview with Sports Illustrated last fall, Barber changed the time frame of his decision to retire, saying he made it during pregame warmups before the Sept. 17 win in Philadelphia when he was being heckled by Eagles fans. "How can I keep playing a kids' game for the rest of my life?" he said. Barber's mother, Geraldine, in an interview with The Star-Ledger in October, said both of her sons told her the night they were drafted they didn't plan on playing very long anyway. "This is the next five years of our lives. Anything after five years is gravy,'" she said. "This is just gravy and maybe Tiki just chooses not to partake of it anymore." -- Mike Garafolo Article 2 Unbecoming blindside hit by Barber Wednesday, February 14, 2007 BY STEVE POLITI Star-Ledger Staff Well, at least he has an idea for his first "Today" show segment, which no doubt will air between "Spring Fashions for Plus-Sized Kids!" and "An Inside Look at Anna Nicole's Final Pool Party." Tiki Barber can call this piece, "How I Sold Out The Giants' Head Coach In A Transparent Attempt to Bring Attention To My Fledgling Television Career." Okay, so the title isn't exactly catchy, but the network must have people to work on these things, right? Poor NBTiki. Now we find out the reason he retired -- or, at least the latest reason, since there have been so many -- wasn't so he could save the world. He just couldn't stand the abuse from Tom Coughlin, who pushed his body past its limit in his final season in the NFL. Yes, what you saw in the season finale against the Washington Redskins a month and a half ago was a worn-down Barber, his legs aching from the long season, trying to save his team with his final steps in pro football ... when he rushed for a franchise-record 234 yards. "These last couple of years have been a dichotomy in some ways," Barber said. "I became an All-Star player, I became one of the elite players in this league. But at the same time, the grind started to take its toll on me, the principles of our head coach started to take its toll on me, so I started looking for the next thing." This wasn't an off-the-cuff remark. This was in response to a softball question about how he'll remember his Giants career. No, Barber clearly had an agenda with his comments yesterday. "Coach Coughlin is very hard-nosed, and I didn't get a lot of time off," he said later. "I couldn't sit down and rest myself. It was a constant grind, a physical grind on me that started to take its toll ... He pushed me in the direction (toward retiring). He kind of forced me to start thinking about what I wanted to do next." We always knew Barber had agility, but in his new job, he better get some accountability and credibility. Barber was always a self-promoter, but his latest swipe at Coughlin is a lame attempt to bring attention to an otherwise mundane introductory press conference. Barber was savvy in how the media works before he signed this multimillion-dollar deal to bring his toothy grin to morning TV. His noble goals about bringing attention about concussions in football, well, that's all well and good. But insinuating that Coughlin forced him into retirement? Hey, that's headline material! Even if it's nonsense. You can blame Coughlin for many things -- the glaring lack of discipline, the late-game collapses, even the slow development of quarterback Eli Manning. I thought Coughlin should have been replaced after the Giants finished 8-8 this past season, and I was hardly alone. Still, the idea that he overworked Barber is unfair. Statistically, Barber was only seventh in the NFL in carries, and might have ranked lower without injuries to Shaun Alexander and Willis McGahee. He averaged 20 carries a game, which is just about right for a featured back. Coughlin did plenty to try to lessen the load on Barber. He increased carries for backup Brandon Jacobs from 38 in 2005 to 96 last fall. He pushed back the time of the second practice during training camp and relied on limited-contact drills, both designed to decrease the pounding on veterans. Barber blamed Coughlin for the playoff debacle two seasons ago against the Panthers, but Coughlin never said a peep publicly when Barber bragged about rushing off at 3 a.m. some mornings during the season to tape "FOX & Friends." He had one foot in the studio before he retired. The former Giants star has flip-flopped on his coach more than the politicians he'll soon interview. "My connection with Tom was formed early -- and this is why we've had a good dialogue despite everything that goes on," Barber told The Star-Ledger a few days before his final game. "Whatever I needed, he was willing and eager to help. And that's telling about a man." Strange relationship, considering a few months later, Barber was trying to pluck a few feathers off a lame duck. Maybe now that Barber is gone from the Giants locker room, he can say how he really feels. He can forget the way Coughlin taught him how to properly hold the football, solving a fumbling problem that made him a liability. He can forget how he went from a nice little running back to a borderline Hall of Famer -- the best three seasons for a running back in Giants franchise history. But if he thinks any of this is going to help his former teammates, he's wrong. NBTiki can't do that. Only Tiki Barber the football player can, but there's a cooking segment with Al Roker awaiting him. 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