Daily, he makes the trip from Riverdale, sometimes riding the Harley across the George Washington Bridge, other times driving his Mercedes SUV through the Lincoln Tunnel, passing the stadium, which almost taunts him from the side of Route 3. At Carini's no one cares what you're wearing, what board you serve on or where you scored a lunch reservation. "It's pretty simple," says Joe Carini, six-time winner of the New Jersey Strongest Man and Barber's personal trainer throughout most of his career. "Did you or didn't you put in the work?"
Barber does. On an early-spring Wednesday, sweating through a T-shirt, ignoring the blood on his palm caused by a popped blister, the 5'10" Barber displaces 1,100 pounds on the leg press machine, 800 on the back squat, 805 on the deadlift. He weighs 200 pounds—his former playing weight—and vows that he's never felt better. "All that other stuff," Carini says with a dismissive wave. "Tiki is back to doing what he does best. I haven't seen him this energized—this alive—since he retired."
By coincidence, on this day he works out alongside Giants guard Chris Snee, who blocked for Barber for three seasons and is Tom Coughlin's son-in-law. When the potential awkwardness of this is raised, Barber says loud enough for Snee to hear, "I love Chris. My problem was with Coughlin. And that wasn't personal; it was professional." When Snee mentions an upcoming family cruise to the Caribbean, Barber tells him, "You can't go! It's [associating] with management!" Snee laughs uneasily at the reference to the lockout rules, as if to say: Still at it, Barber, stirring the pot.
It's spring break in the New York City private schools and, per the custody arrangement, A.J., 8, and Chason, 7, are with their dad today. (Johnson is not there. Per the custody arrangement she has yet to meet the kids.) Indifferent to Dad's weight work, the boys play their Nintendo DS, smack chalk on their hands like LeBron James and try to throw a baseball through a tire. When Chason curls 10 pounds and watches himself in a mirror, his dad says, "You're just like Uncle Ronde, admiring yourself while you lift!"
Finally it's time to go. "Great workout, Tiki," yells Carini. "We're not far off." With that, Barber leaves the gym. Outside, a stiff breeze smacks him in the face. The warm weather might be coming. It's not here yet.