Linebacker Barnes 'pops' for second straight week in Lions loss to Steelers
Pittsburgh — Derrick Barnes is just trying to make the layups.
The Detroit Lions rookie linebacker has been a playmaking machine through two preseason games, racking up five tackles, a sack and two pass breakups in the team's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday night.
"Yeah, Barnes popped again," Lions coach Dan Campbell said. "This is two weeks in a row. He got a little bit more of a load this week than last week because he’s coming back off of that hamstring. He looks good. Now, he’s still a pup, he’s got a long way to go, but I’m telling you, this is why you do these things, this is why you put them in a position to see how they’re going to handle some of this, and get reps, and let them grow. He’s done it again. He’s just shown up. That’s encouraging, that’s what you’re looking for."
Barnes is quick to credit his coaches for the calls that put him in position to make the plays, but he also knows he left something on the field against the Steelers, namely an interception he should have come down with when he jumped a route near the goal line and had the ball bounce off his hands.
"Yeah, I just know I need to get on the JUGS (machine) after practice," he said with a smile. "It's kind of the moment, that's when I realized I wasn't in college anymore, how fast the ball was coming. Definitely got to work on my hands. Got to catch those."
Barnes made his other layup, walloping the quarterback when he came unblocked on a blitz.
"It was just another great call by the coach," Barnes said. "As that player that's blitzing, you have to be able to read what the (offensive) tackle is doing and where the back is stepping up. I could have made the play or the outside linebacker could have made the play, depends on where the back steps to. I just made the play and it's like layups, you've gotta make your layups, especially wide open."
Barnes is still being slowly worked into action after battling a hamstring injury much of the offseason. The rehab routine has been frustrating, but also eye-opening for a young player who rarely dealt with injury during his time at Purdue.
In his brief time in the NFL, he's been schooled on the importance of body maintenance, including putting extra time in the training room, getting massages and taking ice baths, even on days he doesn't practice.
Against the Steelers, there was a brief scare when Barnes came up limping after missing a tackle in the backfield. Fortunately, it was just a cramp and not a reaggravation of the hamstring issue.
As for his playmaking, Barnes is clearly enjoying the early success, but not strictly as an individual, but his ability to have an impact on his teammates.
"My whole mentality, my whole motto is to just play for the guy beside you," Barnes said.
"I think that's huge for me. This is not an individual performance, it's a team sport. Once you start making plays, you see guys start following. Now, everybody wants to make plays. I'm young, but I have a leader mentality. That's just what I want to do is make plays and play for the guy beside me."