KAPOLEI, Hawaii (AP) _ Tiki Barber’s young sons woke him around 5 a.m., understandable considering the five-hour time difference from the family’s New York home.
In essence, 3 1/2-year-old AJ and 23-month old Chason were serving as an alarm clock for their father, who was out the door shortly thereafter for a special workout that had nothing to do with football.
Barber, in Hawaii for Sunday’s Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium, went through a physical training session Tuesday morning with more than 100 soldiers who will be deployed Wednesday to Japan before going to Iraq next summer.
The New York Giants’ star and two law enforcement friends from New York had a chance meeting Sunday night with U.S. Army Capt. Rob Wolfe, who invited the trio to participate in physical training with his troops.
``We play this game and it’s entertaining. Ultimately, it’s self-serving,″ Barber said. ``I’m proud and inspired they do what they do for freedom. These kids are doing their job. Good kids, too.″
Included in the workout was a three-mile run that Barber said ``kicked my butt.″
``It was just a jog for them,″ Barber said with a smile.
Barber spoke to the group, as did one of his companions, New York City detective Kenny Cardona.
``He told them, `We got this covered on the home front. You guys do it overseas,‴ Barber said.
Wolfe expressed his thanks, saying: ``That hour-and-a-half or so will last these guys a lifetime. They are like a bunch of giddy girls today. To have someone like Tiki Barber come and see them is huge.″
A few hours later, Barber practiced for the first time with his NFC teammates, including twin brother Ronde, a cornerback with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
``This practice is a joke,″ Tiki said with a smile in comparing it to his workout earlier in the day. ``This is vacation.″
Tiki is playing in his second Pro Bowl; Ronde his third. They both made it last year, becoming teammates for the first time since 1997 when they played their final season at Virginia before going their separate ways in the NFL.
Tiki is a rarity these days _ a running back who’s going strong at age 30. Fact is, he’s gotten better with age, having reached career highs in rushing the past two seasons by gaining 1,518 yards and averaging 4.7 per carry in 2004 and picking up 1,860 yards and averaging 5.2 this season.
Ronde reached career highs in tackles the last two years with 98 and 99, respectively, and was rewarded with Pro Bowl berths. He also made it in 2001 after intercepting a career-high 10 interceptions. He helped the Bucs reach the Super Bowl the following year by intercepting a fourth-quarter pass thrown by Philadelphia’s Donovan McNabb and returning it 92 yards for a touchdown in the NFC Championship Game.
The Bucs beat the Oakland Raiders in the Super Bowl to give Ronde something Tiki doesn’t have _ a championship ring.
``That’s the only reason you play,″ Ronde said.
``I’ve got to get with the program,″ Tiki said. ``You need to believe you’re the team of destiny.″
The Giants and Bucs both went 11-5 to make the playoffs this season. Both were upset in the first round _ New York lost to Carolina and Tampa Bay fell to Washington.
``Equally as good during the year, equally as bad in the playoffs,″ Tiki said.
Both expressed high hopes for the future.
``Our biggest deal is believing we can do it,″ Ronde said.
``We’ve got to beat our injury bug. Other than that, we have the pieces in place,″ Tiki said.
Notes: Denver quarterback Jake Plummer, selected to play in his first Pro Bowl as a replacement for Cincinnati’s Carson Palmer, withdrew Tuesday because of an injured hamstring. He was replaced on the AFC roster by Tennessee’s Steve McNair. ``It’s a great opportunity to be part of the Pro Bowl,″ McNair said in a statement. ... NFL MVP Shaun Alexander sprained his right foot during Seattle’s 21-10 Super Bowl loss to Pittsburgh, and doesn’t know if he can play in the Pro Bowl. ``I didn’t even know it happened, but it swelled up,″ Alexander said Tuesday in Kirkland, Wash. ``If I can play, I’m going to play. I want to have fun with six of my friends one more time _ and hopefully not for the last time.″ The Super Bowl was the last game of Alexander’s Seattle contract. The team has exclusive rights to negotiate a new deal until March 3, when Alexander would then become a free agent.