Antwan Barnes was fronting for several constituencies as he climbed the steps to the top of the auditorium at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center the other day to talk to Eric Allen for Thursday’s new episode of Jets Talk Live.
He had on his navy blue New York Yankees cap and his navy blue Florida International sweats. And everything underneath was green and white.
“It’s a pleasure,” Barnes said in his first public remarks — other than via Twitter — about becoming a Jets linebacker via unrestricted free agency. Signing with the team, he said, was “something that I wanted to do. Rex was trying to get me two years ago but I turned him down. So when the opportunity came up again, I told him I wasn’t going to turn him down this time.”
Barnes’ relationship with the Jets head coach goes back to his first team, the Ravens, who drafted him in the fourth round, 134th overall, in the ’07 draft and added him to their defense, then being coordinated by Rex.
“This is pretty much the only team I wanted to talk to,” Barnes said. “I didn’t see myself going anywhere else,” Barnes said. “From the outside looking in, they needed a pass rusher and I was thinking I could come here and compete and be a pass rusher.”
Barnes, the 6’1″, 251-pounder who grew up in Miami, has some pro personnel analysts who look at his 23.5 sacks in six pro seasons and say, well, he might be able to supply some of that to the Jets. But others take note of the 18.5 sacks he had in his last three seasons with the Chargers — including the eye-opening 11 he had in ’11 as he moved into the starting lineup for a while for the injured Shaun Phillips — and think he’s a rusher on the rise.
AB definitely is a confident player, but he’s also well aware of the competition mantra around Florham Park these days.
“Me being in my seventh year in the league, sometimes you’ve just got to play your role,” he said. “Whatever role they have for me, I’m going to play to the best of my ability.”
One of his abilities is his speed. He tips his hat to his alma mater, FIU, in reflecting back on the 2007 NFL Combine, when he hung up a 4.43-second time in the 40-yard dash that is still amazing.
“I still have that speed,” he insisted. “They gave the [fastest-linebacker] title that year to one guy. I thought I had the fastest time. I just wanted to represent FIU well at the combine.”
Quincy Black, just released by Tampa Bay last month, was that LB who nosed out Barnes by an unofficial one-hundredth of a second, 4.42 to 4.43, in the ’07 combine. Those were not only the two best times for linebackers in Indianapolis that year but remain the best two times by all linebackers in the last eight combines … combined.
Barnes has done his tour of the country, from the East Coast to the West Coast and back again. He sees new horizons opening for him here in North Jersey.
“I’m going from sunny-no-rain-clear-skies-every-day San Diego to hard-core, snowy New Jersey,” he said. “My daughter already knows the Jets chant — she’s 4 years old. My family are Dolphins fans but they told me they’re going to switch over and be Jets fans now.
“This is pretty much what I need,” he said with his quiet, confident smile. “I’m looking forward to it.”
You can hear all of EA’s interview with Barnes, plus his chat with Rich Cirminiello of College Football News.com about the Jets’ draft needs, beginning tomorrow at 3 p.m. ET on newyorkjets.com when the JTL segment first airs.
Another NFL Coaching Competitor Passes
One day after we remembered Jack Pardee, whose teams had a few head-to-head battles with the Jets over the years, we must take the heavy duty of eulogizing one more coaching competitor in Chuck Fairbanks, 79, who died Tuesday in Scottsdale, Ariz., from brain cancer.
Fairbanks first burst on the football scene as Oklahoma’s head coach. After six years of leading the Sooners to the upper echelons of college football, he moved on to raise the fortunes of the New England Patriots. From 1967-72, the Patriots were 22-62-1. In six seasons under Fairbanks, they improved to 46-40 with two playoff appearances, although the last, in ’78, was tarnished by Fairbanks’ attempt to leave before the postseason for the University of Colorado.
Fairbanks’ Patriots were 6-6 against the Jets’ collection of five head coaches during that period — Weeb Ewbank (2-0 in his last season at the helm in ’73), Charley Winner (2-1), Ken Shipp (1-0), Lou Holtz (0-2) and Walt Michaels (1-3).
Tags: Antwan Barnes, Chuck Fairbanks, Eric Allen, Florida International, Rex Ryan, Rich Cirminiello, Shaun Phillips
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