Manning responds to criticism from Barber on TV halftime show

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Tiki Barber wanted a more intense, fiery Eli Manning. The New York Giants quarterback gave Tiki what he wanted
in a loud ripping voice on Tuesday.

Two days after being criticized on national television by Barber
for a lack of strong leadership, Manning ripped his former teammate
and current NBC football analyst for distracting the team last
season with his early retirement announcement and his criticism of
coach Tom Coughlin.

"I guess I'm just happy for Tiki that he's making a smooth
transition into the TV world," Manning said. "You know, I'll be
interested to see if he has anything to say [about a team] besides
the Giants, and what his comments will be on that."

Normally reserved and never one to criticize a coach or
teammate, Manning seemed to enjoy going after Barber, the Giants'
all-time leading rusher who retired after last season at age 31 to
pursue a television career.

Speaking during the halftime show of the Sunday Night Football
game between the Giants and Baltimore Ravens, Barber had said that
Manning's attempt to lead an offensive meeting in the 12th week of
the last season was "comical" at times.

Manning didn't find the comment funny.

"It's just one of those deals. I'm not going to lose any sleep
about what Tiki has to say," Manning said. "I guess I could have
questioned his leadership skills last year with calling out the
coach and having articles about him retiring in the middle of the
season, and he's lost the heart [to play].

"As a quarterback you're reading that your running back has
lost the heart to play the game and it's about the 10th week,"
Manning said. "I can see that a little bit at times. But I'm not
going to get concerned. I'm going to go out there and play ball."

Speaking on his radio show "The Barber Shop" on Sirius NFL
Radio, Barber said he was glad that Manning stuck up for himself,
even though he felt his comments were tame and honest.

"I'll tell you this," Barber said. "It was not said

Giants teammates came to Manning's defense on Tuesday.

Wide receiver Amani Toomer, who played his entire career with
Barber, was stunned.

"I thought Tiki and Eli were pretty good friends," Toomer
said. "It's kind of strange to have him say something like that
and to make a point of it like that. Maybe he had somebody else in
his ear kind of coaxing him into saying stuff, because I don't
believe he really believes that. I don't know why he'd say
something like that."

Manning's father, Archie, said at a charity bowling event in
Indianapolis for his other son, Super Bowl MVP Peyton, that he had
not counseled the Giants quarterback on how to handle the

"He talked to me a while ago and said Tiki got after him a
little bit the other night, and he said it's not a big deal,"
Archie Manning said. "He told me a whole lot of people in the
Giants organization were proud of what he said.

"Eli's not a controversial guy and he's not going to be. I feel
like if Eli did something like that, it would come from his

Center Shaun O'Hara said that Manning is progressing as a
leader, especially for a fourth-year player.

"I don't have any problems with Eli's leadership and the way he
does it," O'Hara said. "He's doing it his way. I think players
appreciate that. It's a shame everybody wants Eli to be somebody
they think he should be instead of just letting him be himself."

O'Hara noted that Manning might be under the microscope more
than most young quarterbacks because he is the brother of Peyton

"For me, you can be Johnny Rah-Rah, but if you're not doing
your job, if you're not pulling your weight, it doesn't matter what
you say," O'Hara said. "Being loud, that doesn't make you a great

Tackle David Diehl said Manning showed his leadership Sunday
night, getting the offense lined up right when the Ravens threw a
couple of new looks at them on defense.

Giants new quarterback coach Chris Palmer added that Manning
does everything a coach wants.

"Everybody leads in a different way," Palmer said. "If you
buy any business books, there are 101 ways to lead. He'll lead in
his own particular fashion."

While Barber praised Manning at times for his play, he also
questioned whether he could be a leader of men and make plays when
the chips were down.

"His personality hasn't been so that he can step up, make a
strong statement and have people believe that it's coming from his
heart," Barber said on the show.

Barber then told the story about Manning being uncomfortable
talking to the offense in Week 12.

"He didn't feel like his voice was going to be strong enough
and it showed," Barber said. "Sometimes it was almost comical the
way that he would say things."

While Barber rushed for 1,662 yards last season, the second
highest single-season total in Giants history, he also was a
distraction in an 8-8 season that saw the Giants make the playoffs.

He went on record in early October saying that the 2006 season
would probably be his last. He also created problems for Coughlin
when he criticized him for pulling away from the running game too
soon in a loss to Jacksonville in November.

It was the second time he went after his head coach.

After a playoff loss to Carolina in 2005, Barber said Coughlin
was outcoached by Panther coach John Fox, a former Giants

While Coughlin refused to get involved in the controversy, he
was happy Manning defended himself.

"Well, he thought about what he was going to do, and he decided
he would say exactly what he felt," Coughlin said. "More power to