Injuries, record-breaking stats, and all the new aggressive offensive playcalling schemes have led the NFL to a place that the stars from yesterday’s game could have never seen coming. Of course, the advancements in technology have also played their role in this evolution, but the NFL is now one of the fastest paced and dangerous games in the world. On a different side, the national football league has also become a platform for players to have their voice heard. In the following interview with NFL legend Tiki Barber, we discuss everything from expectations for the upcoming season to issues such as the national anthem conundrum and the new hitting rule. Along with those pressing questions, we also had the opportunity to talk to Tiki about his partnership with POWERADE, and which athletes he would send his sympathy cards too. View more information on the POWERADE sympathy cards.
Here is COEDs in-depth conversation with Tiki Barber:
Max: What are your feelings about kneeling during the national anthem?
Tiki: “It’s something that I would have never done. It’s mainly because I am a product from the 9/11 era in New York City. The story has been told many times, but the twin towers fell and living in New York City, our practice field also looked at the World Trade Center site and we saw the towers and the smoke for a couple of days, but we also saw the healing power of coming together and that was no more evident in our game against Kansas City, our first game post 9/11. When they played the national anthem, it hit me in ways that I could never imagine. I’ve heard the national anthem thousands of times, but never listened to it the way that I did that day. So I wouldn’t kneel for the national anthem because of what it means to me, but I understand the issue it has faced and it does need to evolve and it slowly is.”
Max: What is your take on the new hit rule involving leaning with helmets considering all the scrutiny it has received throughout the preseason?
Tiki: “Well there has definitely been negativity from a perception standpoint, but it’s more of a confusion issue for the players. There is a natural instinct for human beings more over living creatures to duck when danger is near. Being able to control that specifically so that you don’t lean with your head is something that is hard to do and so the NFL has made some adjustments although they haven’t officially made adjustments to judge intent and the hard part about that is the question of how do you judge intent? The reasoning behind this rule is to protect players and even if it is overcalled in the preseason, it creates this perception in their mind that it is going to be called a penalty.”
Max: How does the reality show Hard Knocks effect player’s actions knowing that the cameras are on them at all times. Or would you say to a certain degree that the show is fixed?
Tiki: “Well I think that there is some manufactured drama, but it’s also real and it shows some of the hardships and the nature of the sport. Yes, it may be something that is created for television, but it is something that is relatively on point. If you are not at your best, then coaches will have their way with you. I like Hard Knocks but I always take it with a grain of salt because I know an event can happen one day, but it can be positioned as happening another day for the purposes of entertainment.”
Max: If you were playing in today’s game that is centered around an aerial-attack approach for offensives schemes, do you think you would be a better fit, where running backs are tasked with more receptions along with the ability to pass protect?
Tiki: “I think I could fit in today’s game quite well because those were the things I did when I was playing a decade ago. I did catch a lot of passes and was able to be utilized in different ways for the offense. I think running backs have to be able to do that these days. They can’t just be one-trick ponies because you become more of a liability to your offense versus the guys who can do that. So yeah, I could have played in this type of system and I would have enjoyed it, to be honest with you.”
Max: After reading your books about you and your brother Rondae, what led you guys to play different positions, especially considering you guys were roughly the exact same build. When you look at siblings that are playing the game today, they tend to play the same position; for example, the Watt brothers are both pass rushers, three out of the four Fullers are corners, so where did the differentiation come from for you and Rondae.
Tiki: “It was really just a way for our coaches from keeping us from teeing at the same position and effectively using the athleticism that we brought to the table. Rondae played cornerback because he was actually a better athlete than I was so he could do more things while I was a runner. I was always the runner because I was always the fastest kid on the team.”
Max: What teams do you see finding success this year that are being completely thrown under the radar right now?
Tiki: “I think Arizona has a chance to do so. They’ve completely remade their offensive line and their new head coach Steven Wilks is a stickler for details and teams that have veteran leaders like they do, Larry Fitzgerald among others will respond well to that. Another team that still may be a couple years away is the Chicago Bears. I really like what they are doing with their defense and Roquan Smith was a great pick for them to get back to what was traditionally their strength which is defense.”
Max: Which rookie quarterbacks do you think could make the biggest noise this year?
Tiki: “Baker is going to great once they are ready to hand him the keys. I think Sam Darnold is going to be good as well because he has a calmness about him and the ability to not care, which is good because you can’t get too high or too low, you just have to keep moving forward. I’m excited to see him in New York because I think he has a demeanor to him that will allow him to handle the pressure of fans in New York along with the media. But I really love Baker Mayfield because he is such a great athlete and such a great playmaker.”
Max: During your time at Virginia, could you name three iconic moments where players would have been worthy of receiving the apology cards?
Tiki: “The first would go to Warrick Dunn. We were playing against Florida State on a Thursday night in 1995 and Florida State was the number one ranked team in the country and we ended up beating them by five points. Warrick came about an inch away from scoring the game-winning touchdown, but he didn’t so I would say I am sorry because that ruined their chances of winning a national championship. It was a great day for me because I had 311 all-purpose yards.
The second one I would send would go to Ricky Williams. After beating us by three at Texas in the year prior, they came to Virginia and it was pouring rain and I scored three touchdowns in the first quarter and our defense beat the crap out of Ricky and held him to around 60 yards.
The last one would go to the University of Georgia. We were playing them in the Peach Bowl, that took place in Georgia and I would send this one to Hines Ward. Hines was a wide receiver at Georgia, but in that game, he was forced to play quarterback because all their quarterbacks were hurt, and he actually played pretty well. It came down to the last quarter of the game and Hines led them to a game-tying touchdown drive with about five seconds left in the game. On the ensuing kickoff, Pete Allen, who was our return man at the time, took the kickoff all the way back for a touchdown. So I would send the apology to Hines Ward for beating them in the Peach Bowl in Georgia! In front of their home fans!”