The news today that running back Tiki Barber is coming out of retirement at age 35 after sitting out four seasons brought with it a lot of analysis (and smart-aleck comments), and a lot of comparisons. Mike Sando wrote a nice piece on the once-rumored Jim Brown comeback in 1983 (I remember that SI cover, and the stir Brown caused at the time) and also touched on the elite backs who finished out their careers — not in great ways — as older players in the NFC West. Guys like Franco Harris, O.J. Simpson and yes, Emmitt Smith.
I did notice, however, that of the players listed, Smith ended up with the best final season of any of them, gaining 937 yards in Denny Green’s first season, and scoring nine touchdowns. That’s what I remember about Emmitt back then, that he certainly didn’t have the burst to break any big runs but he still had a knack for the goal line once you got him inside the 10. He wasn’t exactly playing for an offensive juggernaut in 2004 either — I think he would have easily punctured 1,000 yards rushing had he had a little better of a unit around him.
The other thing I remember concerning Emmitt’s end game? He didn’t want it to be the end. I was at his retirement press conference at that year’s Super Bowl in Jacksonville. Emmitt still gave thanks to a lot of Cardinals’ people, but it was a Cowboys’ event all the way, with Dallas helmets and owner Jerry Jones. Yet Emmitt wanted to come back to the Cardinals in 2005. His side had reached out to the organization, but by then — correctly — the Cards were ready to move on at running back.
Tags: Dennis Green, Emmitt Smith, Franco Harris, O.J. Simpson, Tiki Barber
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Coach Ken Whisenhunt just had his day-after presser, so before I head down to open locker room, here are some of the highlights:
— Injury-wise, the Cards seem OK. T Levi Brown obviously hurt his ankle but he came back into the game. S Antrel Rolle said after the game he hurt his knee, but Whisenhunt said it was actually Rolle’s quadricep that was bothering him. The coach didn’t seem overly concerned about either one, and said LB Chike Okeafor was “close” to playing Sunday but was eventually ruled out with the bad shoulder.
— Whiz also said his players seemed to handle the terrible heat/humidity of Jacksonville. He expected some players to “lock up” on the flight home but they didn’t. He also said that, as an expert of growing up in the South and playing plenty of afternoon football in similar weather, the Jacksonville game may have been the worst he had ever been involved with.
— He praised the offensive line, noting he had been angry with them last week and that maybe he needs to continue that approach (although he said it with a smile).
— He said Beanie Wells can’t be a fumbler. That’s no surprise. But he brought up the case of former Giants RB Tiki Barber, who went from being a fumbler to one of the most secure runners in the league.
— He said Larry Fitzgerald obviously wants the ball more, but he pointed out the Cards want to get the ball to Fitz more. “He’ll tell you, but it’s never in any way other than kind of kidding around,” Whisenhunt said.
— A healthy Steve Breaston probably is the punt returner. But Rolle will continue to work on his punt-catching issues. Whisenhunt did said the problem quad did affect Rolle, and noted that there may be nothing more difficult in football than running up to catch a punt with the other team bearing down on you.
— K Neil Rackers is “unselfish” for wanting to be in on kickoff coverage. But Rackers needs to be smarter too.
Tags: Antrel Rolle, Beanie Wells, Chike Okeafor, Ken Whisenhunt, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Neil Rackers, Steve Breaston, Tiki Barber
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