Lions rookie Derrick Barnes poised for larger role vs. Ravens

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — The last time Derrick Barnes was on the opposing sideline from quarterback Lamar Jackson it was the linebacker's first college game at Purdue and he didn't even get on the field.

Now a rookie with the Detroit Lions, Barnes appeared to be trending toward the same fate a week ago; a young player still deemed unready for the big stage. 

Linebacker Derrick Barnes was selected in the fourth round by the Lions in the 2021 NFL Draft.

But things have changed in a hurry. 

After not playing a defensive snap in Monday night's loss to the Green Bay Packers, Barnes is primed for a big role when the Ravens, led by Jackson, roll into town Sunday. Earlier this week, the Lions publicly announced they're shopping Jamie Collins in trade talks with a primary aim of getting Barnes, as well as Jalen Reeves-Maybin, into the lineup. 

It's made for a whirlwind of a week for Barnes, who made sure to thank Collins for the guidance he's provided to this point. 

"It was shocking when I heard the news," Barnes said. "All credit to Jamie — incredible player, Pro Bowler, Super Bowl champion. He's a great player and I wish him the best of luck in whatever he has coming next. He was a big role model to me. I can't thank him enough, but when they came to me and said it was my time, step up, I just had to prepare better mentally."

More: Lions rule out Jamie Collins against Baltimore; 7 others listed as questionable

A standout during the preseason, Barnes is confident enough to say he's felt ready for this moment all along, but he's also humble enough to recognize why the coaches wanted a little more time before pulling the trigger. 

"I think it's God telling me it's not my time yet," he said. "I'm a rookie. I have a lot to learn. I have great veterans in front of me, Alex (Anzalone), Jamie, those guys have taught me a lot. I'd go to them for questions and answers. I can't really say that it frustrated me that much because I knew I was a rookie, I had more to learn, I needed to develop."

Barnes' still-budding confidence is rooted in his preparation. He's a film junkie, a habit he ramped up his senior year at Purdue. Beyond his daily classroom study at Detroit's practice facility, he finds himself constantly consuming tape at home whenever he's not doing anything else. 

"My senior year especially, I couldn’t stop watching," Barnes said. "I literally could not stop watching film because I knew where I wanted to be, I knew where I wanted to go, and that was the only way to get where I wanted to go. And it was just constantly everyday, two hours before practice, two hours after practice, at home.

"Now, it’s the same thing," he said. "You have your time in the building, but when I get home, I’m bored all the time. There’s nothing to do at home. So just imagine the amount of times I get bored is when I start watching film, and you can probably just imagine that’s the whole night."

This week, the film study focus is how to slow down Jackson. The Lions will need to do better than Purdue did in that 2017 game against Louisville, when Jackson threw for 378 yards and two touchdowns, while running for another 107 yards to lead a come-from-behind 35-28 victory. 

"You have to approach the game as any other," Barnes said. "I wouldn’t say treat him the same. Obviously, there’s not so many quarterbacks that can run like him, but go back to what I said, confidence is the key. When you try to tackle this guy, don’t stop your feet, run right through him."

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers