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Tiki torch

Giants may expand sparkplug Barber's Super Bowl role

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Posted: Friday January 19, 2001 2:12 AM

  Tiki Barber Tiki Barber had 90 yards of total offense in the Giants' rout of the Vikings. M David Leeds/Allsport

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Tiki Barber has had enough of the broken left arm that has slowed him down in the playoffs.

It's better, the New York Giants halfback said Thursday. It's so good, he is planning to return punts in the Super Bowl against the Baltimore Ravens. He might even play without a cast.

"It's going real good," said Barber, who has played in all three games since breaking his left forearm against Dallas on Dec. 17. "I'm re-establishing my confidence."

Jim Fassel isn't so sure that Barber will play without a cast against the Ravens next Sunday in Tampa, Fla., but the Giants coach said the little running back who was the most valuable player on his offense is improving.

Barber fielded punts Thursday for the first time since the regular-season finale against Jacksonville on Dec. 23.

"He look good, real good," Fassel said.

Receivers Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard have returned punts for the Giants in the playoffs because Barber lacked the confidence to handle the job.

He had a problem rotating his left hand wearing a cast and could not field the ball. That's not a problem any more, he said.

"There's so much at stake and this has been a dream season for me," said Barber, who rushed for a career-best 1,006 yards, caught 70 passes for 719 yards and averaged 8.5 yards on punt returns. "To have to sit out the important part of it would have been too much for me to take. I put everything aside and said, 'I'm playing.'"

Barber has used a bone stimulator in recent weeks and said his arm has not hurt.

"It's all come together," Barber said. "It takes a while for some people, and I finally got it."

After joking that Barber was a 'wimp,' defensive end Michael Strahan said Barber's ability to stay on the field while hurt has been amazing.

"The guy has a broken arm and he goes out there and practices every day and never takes any time off," Strahan said. "You have to admire a guy like that. I remember watching him early this season and saying, 'Thank God we have him' because sometimes we couldn't get things going on offense and he was the only one who could move the ball and make it happen."

The broken arm slowed Barber in the playoffs. He rushed for only 35 yards on 15 carries and had three receptions for 13 yards in the 20-10 win over Philadelphia in the NFC semifinal. He added 69 yards rushing and four catches for 21 yards in the NFC championship against Minnesota.

Against the Ravens' outstanding defense, the Giants are going to need Barber because he provides options. With his speed he can attack the outside of the Baltimore defense on the run and is also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield.

One of Barber's closest friends on the team, fullback Greg Comella, expects his buddy to be ready for the Ravens.

"When he came out of college the media labeled him as a third-down back and the coaches labeled him as a third-down back," Comella said. "Tiki never allowed himself to settle in as that.

"He has that burning desire to succeed," Comella added. "That's what makes Tiki Barber successful."

Related information
Peter King's NFL Mailbag: Haslett, slam dunk as top coach
Giants' Armstead stands behind Ravens' Lewis
SI's Dr. Z: Super Bowl positional breakdown
Statitudes: Super Bowl History -- By the Numbers
Statitudes: The blowout factor
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