As his new Redskins teammates jogged through coverages during Monday morning’s walk through, 11th-year linebacker Nick Barnett looked more like one of the eager, pre-teen RGIII autograph seekers on the sidelines than an NFL veteran.
The 6-foot-2, 228-pounder — who signed July 31 but has been inactive during camp so far — hopped anxiously in place twenty yards behind his teammates, shuffling and backpedaling along with the play after each snap, retreating solemnly to the sidelines with his head down after each play.
But halfway through the walk-through, the man in a No. 90 jersey got the “all clear,” and sprinted to his position in the center of the defense to participate in practice for the first time as a member of the Redskins. He is participating in team runs and 7-on-7 drills in Monday’s afternoon session, but doesn’t know when Coach Mike Shanahan will clear him for full practice.
“It’s been a long time. I keep watching all these guys have fun on the field, so I’m chomping at the bit,” Barnett said.
Shanahan has held Barnett out of practice since Washington signed him July 31 to both ensure he’s physically ready after offseason knee surgery and to allow him ample time to adjust to a new scheme. The former Green Bay Packer, who said he hadn’t anticipated being signed “this early” because of the arthroscopic procedure, was cut by the Buffalo Bills in February after leading them in tackles in both 2011 and 2012.
“They’ve just been killing me with this cardio. It’s good work, though. Just trying to get me through football drills, hitting bags, and trying to make sure that I don’t go out there too soon,” Barnett said. “There’s been a lot of injuries with guys going out there too soon this year, so just making sure I’m totally ready. So I appreciate that.”
The sideline stint has also allowed Barnett time to learn — or more accurately, to remember — the Redskins’ defensive scheme, one he calls “really familiar.” Washington’s linebackers coach Bob Slowik was Barnett’s defensive coordinator with Green Bay in 2004, and Jim Haslett’s scheme is similar to the one he ran during eight seasons the Packers.
“It’s just the little ways you play technique here and the communication (that’s different),” Barnett said. “I’ve learned this defense, but I’ve been playing a different defense for the last two years. But it’s very similar and I think I caught on pretty fast — but time will tell when things start going full speed.”
The former Super Bowl champion says that while it’s tough to be “the new kid on the block,” his new teammates have been welcoming and he’s starting to “find his little place” on the team. For a guy who led the league in combined tackles in 2005 and has been a starter throughout his career, that place — backup to starters London Fletcher and Perry Riley — isn’t one he’s used to having.
“I’m just approaching it the same way I approach every season,” Barnett said. “Whatever role it is, I’ll adjust. But I’m not going to adjust my playing speed or the way I play, so there’s really no adjustment other than maybe on game day I’m not starting, and I just have an upside down smile for two plays.”
Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag.
● Mike Jones’s daily practice observations later this evening.
● Tuesday’s schedule has been modified, with a 10 a.m. and 3:20 p.m. workout sandwiched around an 11:30 “special announcement.” If you’re headed to Richmond, check our our guide to training camp for tips on getting autographs, where to park and things to do after the session is over.
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