Our Joe Malfa sat down with New York Jets DT TJ Barnes to talk about his childhood interests, the adjustment to the Jets new coaching staff, and the outlook for the 2015 season. Thanks to TJ for taking the time to speak with us!
Before we get to the football related questions, I wanted to ask you about your Twitter bio as I am sure I am not the only fan wondering the meaning behind some of the things you have written there — please explain.Well, Poke’mon Master is because I was a big Pokemon player back in the day — always have been, currently am, and always will be a big Poke’mon player. Digidestined is because I used to love Digimon as a kid, same with Dulest as I used to love Yu-Gi-Oh and Hokage Sensei a I used to love Naruto. I always had a lot of fun with and enjoyed those types of things and still do. 10x WWF Champion has to do with the fact that I was a big wrestling fan back in the day — WWF, WCW, ECW all of those. Yogi is just there because I do a lot of yoga.
Now, to the football side of things, you have a whole new coaching staff this year. How does playing for Pepper Johnson compare to playing for Karl Dunbar?
It is pretty much the same. They are both great men and great coaches with great football minds. It is hard to compare their similarities and differences because they both have the same goal — coaching you into the best player that you can possibly be and getting you to execute your job on the field.
Same topic different coaches — what are the main differences you have noticed so far between Rex Ryan and Todd Bowles?Rex is obviously a lot more outspoken whereas Coach Bowles is a lot more reserved and observant. Other than that, from what I’ve seen so far, they are both very similar in that they pay close attention to detail and like to keep practice tight. They both have that winning mentality and want us to go out there and work hard so we can pile up the Ws at the end of the day.
So far through mini camp and OTAs, what have you seen out of the rookies on the defensive line?
All of them have looked good and have already grasped what we are trying to do and have learned their roles. Leo [Leonard Williams] has gotten his feet wet and has done really well so far on the field in drills and workouts. He is also learning how to carry himself as a pro both on and off the field and he has done a good job so far.
How does going into this training camp differ from the past training camps you have gone into?I think going into my 3rd year makes a big difference as I head into camp. I am more experienced and know how to handle myself, so it is really just like getting back on a bike and getting it started again. Ever since I was released a couple of years ago in Jacksonville, I know there is no such thing as job security even though I got into games last year towards the end of the season and thought I performed well throughout the year on the practice field. I know that I have to work as hard as I can, be prepared, and just give it my all at all times. I know not to be relaxed or to feel safe in any situation.
What has your offseason been like this year?
It has gone well so far. I have been working out a lot, boxing, relaxing, and really enjoying myself. Last year I went back to school to get my degree after I left early for the draft my Junior year, so I have had a lot more time off not having to go to school. I was really able to have some time off this year to really enjoy myself.
With the suspension of Sheldon Richardson, do you expect your role to change at all and if so how?
I’m not really sure to be honest. It’s up to the coaches and I’ll know more about my role when camp starts. It’s something that’s out of my hands, and right now I am just focused on doing my best at whatever I can actually control.
What part of training camp do you most look forward to?
There is a drill we do called goal line where the ball is placed on the one yard line, the offense has to try to punch it in, and we have to try to stop them. We defensive linemen really pride ourselves on keeping the offense out, so it’s a drill I am really looking forward to.
Do you believe this Jet defense is the best in the league and if so why?
I always believe that any defense I am a part of is the best defense in the league, because the only way you can be the best is if you have the mentality that you are the best — you can’t settle for anything less than the best in your mind. We are a very experienced and talented group on all phases of the defense — on the line, in the middle with the linebackers, and on the back end with the secondary. You can say you’re the best, but you need to actually show you’re the best come November and December and I believe this team can do just that.
Some veterans were brought in on the defensive side of the ball this year, namely Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie — how has their experience helped some of the younger guys like yourself?
There is more accountability now — they hold everyone accountable for their jobs on and make sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to be doing. They make sure they handle everything on the back and and they make sure we handle everything up front. There is a lot to be learned from veterans like those guys.
The 2015 Jets will make the playoffs and compete for a championship if…
If we handle everything we are supposed to and take things one game at a time. While Novemeber and December are crucial, everything that comes before then is important too and you can’t worry about November and December when it is only July. If we execute and take things as they come, this team has what it takes to go far.