It's been highly publicized that Giants running back Tiki Barber plans to retire at the end of the season, whether the Giants go 0 and 10 or win the Super Bowl. Most fans and members of the media share in the opinion that it's Tiki's decision to make and that if he feels it's time, well, it's time.
That may not be the case with ESPN analyst and former Cowboy Michael Irvin. During last night's broadcast of Monday Night Football Irvin indicated that he thought of Barber as a quitter and went on to say that he considered Barber's status as a team leader to be diminished, if not null and void. Of course, Barber answered the criticism only with his play, as he carried the ball 27 times for 114 yards against Irvin's beloved Cowboys.
As an analyst, Irvin is entitled to broadcast his opinion to the masses, even when it's completely off base, which it was in this case. Tiki Barber is much better off retiring from the game on his own terms, as opposed to being carted off the field on a meat wagon, as Irvin and countless others have. Like Irvin, former Cowboy Troy Aikman had to be told when enough was enough, as he dealt with multiple concussions that caused his career to end prematurely. Emmit Smith, the NFL's all time leading rusher, played the game until the game passed him by, deciding to end his career in obscurity, playing for the lowly Arizona Cardinals and resembling a shell of his former self in the process.
It seems that there's a mentality amongst certain NFL players that one should play until he can't play any more and only lack of skills or an injury should hold them back. It seems that many believe it's better to be carted off the field and put out the pasture than ride into the sunset at the top of one's game. Maybe Irvin and others who share his opinion believe that it's their right to tell Tiki what to do and when to do it. Maybe it would have been better to see a player like Barry Sanders carter off on a stretcher instead of calling it quits at 31, when there was plenty left in the tank. Maybe Irvin just wishes he was back on the football field. But that's for Irvin and his shrink to figure out.
Barber feels as though it's time to pursue other avenues of interest in his life, one that does not revolve solely around football. There's a fine line players must walk when determining when it's time to hang it up and each player needs to look inside himself and make that call, when he feels it's right. If Barber says it's time to go, it's time to go. So Irvin, from now on, live your own life and worry abut your own hangups, because Barbers doing things the Barber way.