Giants Legend Tiki Barber Talks Brady, Kaepernick and Trump With RealClearLife
The retired All-Pro running back also offers hot takes on the NFL's top storylines.
The first game of the NFL season is in the books, but the top storylines of the 2018 NFL season are far from over.
Discontent is still (probably) brewing in New England, Saquon Barkley is poised to have a giant impact in New York, and Le’Veon Bell remains locked into a staring match with the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
Oh, there’s also this Kaepernick dude who made a Nike commercial you might’ve seen that got this other kinda important guy you might’ve heard of tweeting about it on Twitter. Maybe.
To shed some lights on all those storylines as well as offer his Super Bowl predictions and thoughts on a number of other NFL-related topics, retired All-Pro running back Tiki Barber sat down with RealClearSports for some gridiron gabbing.
Los Angeles will represent the NFC in the Super Bowl
“The Rams have done so much this offseason and brought in so much talent even though they were so good last year, leading the league in points. They spent to upgrade their defense and also brought in Brandin Cooks.”
The AFC Super Bowl rep will be Pittsburgh
“Their team is always right there but always falling just a little bit short. Not that Mike Tomlin is under pressure, but I feel like he’s due. He’s gotten so close and he’s worked so hard to keep this team perennially in the conversation but they’ve always been a piece away. I hope this is the year for him and I believe it will be.”
And yes, the Steelers will win despite the Le’Veon Bell situation
“It’ll impact them a little bit, but they’re confident in James Conner and he’s such an uplifting story – a local kid from Pittsburgh who played at Pitt and is going to get a chance after coming back from cancer – you can’t script it any better. Conner’s not Le’Veon, but they aren’t going to miss him too much. They have so much talent on offense outside of their rushing game.”
And no, Bell isn’t being a diva
“It’s easy for quarterbacks to play on one-year deals. It’s hard for running backs to do that. They get beat up and risk having serious injuries that, once you have one, you’re surely not going to get paid. At the end of the day, you have to do what’s best for yourself. As a teammate of Bell’s, you’d be frustrated, but you’d have to understand. The same thing could happen to you. The best-case scenario is he probably gets traded and goes somewhere that’s willing to pay him.”
Whether Bell gets one or not, monster deals will keep coming
“Revenues are skyrocketing. Papa John’s leaves the game in protest and Pizza Hut comes in and pays a premium, not a discount, for the spot. New stadiums like in Los Angeles and Las Vegas also provide new revenues with naming rights. Digital streaming services, legal gambling … There’s so much new money coming into the National Football League. The salary cap will continue to go up and teams are going to be able to afford salaries that are on par with the NBA and MLB.”
The NFL wants to be a $25 billion industry and the helmet rule won’t stop it …
“The reason the new policy has been controversial is because of how it affects plays. It’s like holding – you could call it on every single play in the NFL. How it’s managed and how it’s called really needs to be managed. In the preseason they were trying to figure it out and you saw calls decrease each week. I think that’s what we’re going to get.”
… and neither will Trump’s continued Twitter attacks on the league …
“I think the NFL and the players are getting smart about this and will be ignoring it. Don’t engage with trolling behavior on the internet even if it’s from the President of the United States. It doesn’t serve anyone’s purpose to continue a nonsensical argument, especially the NFL’s. Like with a bully – you can’t fight the big boy, so just ignore.”
… or the Colin Kaepernick Nike ad
“The commercial is actually really compelling and it’s important to not lose sight of the message because of the messenger. I think it’ll blow over. As much as it’s about support Kaepernick, it’s also about marketing and creating a conversation. For the vocal minority, it feels like it’s miserable, but in totality, it’s actually a really good thing.”
But don’t expect to see Kaepernick return to the field
“I don’t think he will and I don’t think he wants to. I think he’s going to be more known for his end-of-career and post-career existence and stances than for anything he ever did as a player. History is going to judge him well though I think.”
There are cracks, but no need for panic in New England, yet
“Think about it like an aging, leather wallet. At first, it’s pristine and beautiful, then it gets a little crack in it. It’s still very functional, but starts getting a little frayed around the edges. That’s happening to an extent, but it doesn’t mean the Patriots aren’t going to be as effective as they’ve always been. The one thing you can never discount is every player is going to be prepared for their moment because the expectation is always there for that. If you’re not, you don’t play. That expectation keeps them on top year after year.”
Brady probably won’t play til 45 though
“There’s no way it’s possible, but it’s fun to talk about. I almost feel like he messes with people by putting that out there. Physically, it gets so hard to keep training. Next year would be 20 years for him and that’s only 22. I just don’t see it happening. I love that he looks at it like a challenge.”
Though I would pick him if I had to win a game tonight
“His ability to process and manipulate and make the throw that needs to be made is unmatched. A really good defense can take advantage of him by making him hold the ball like the Eagles did, but I would take him. He’s proven it too many times not to.”
In New York, Saquon Barkley will be a throwback back
“Saquon brings a missed dimension to this Giants team. For the last three or four years, the Giants have been a pass-first instead of a run-first offense as we’ve traditionally been. That’s hard to sustain once coordinations figure out you can’t run the ball. Now that we have Saquon, a healthy Odell Beckham and a returning offensive line, there’s a renewed optimism for this team and that’s exciting.”
Jimmy Garappolo will be the real deal in San Francisco
“His early success with five straight wins shows it could be interesting. If they can build something around him, he’s got the swagger, the look, and most importantly the game to be one of the new faces of the NFL. If he can bring the Niners back to prominence for a sustained time, it would mean a lot for the league.”
Jalen Ramsey trash-talking the entire league is awesome
“That was old-school. You don’t hear people calling people out anymore. I mean it was a little malicious, but he was just being who he is. He’s confident. He’s cocky. Early in my career guys like John Randle used to talk nonstop trash. It was awesome. Nowadays guys always have to say the right thing and they don’t wanna be in the paper. It was kind of refreshing to hear an old-school rant.”
Playing in Philly at Veterans Stadium was rough as an opposing player
“Eagles fans are the worst and the Vet only magnified it. It was a hellhole. The concrete locker rooms were freezing in the winter, no insulation, holes in the wall. And the field itself was hard as a rock with a thin layer of turf over it. I hated it. What made it worse was the fans were brutal and vicious. City of Brotherly Love my a–. You’d get motivated to play there as a visitor.”
As an opposing player, Green Bay wasn’t too bad
“I only played there one time and I’d always wanted to because of the stories you hear about Lambeau. I think it was in ’05 or ’06 and I had a good game and rushed for 180 yards and we ended up beating them. I remember leaving the field and the fans were complimenting me and telling me I played great. It was the antithesis of what you get in Philadelphia. They appreciated the product they saw.”