Barnard has spent his time since leaving professional football working out and trying to refine his game. Although he hoped to be picked up by a professional team eventually, receiving a call from the Bears came as somewhat of a surprise.
"As a matter of fact, I was just getting ready to head to Minnesota on vacation. Coming back to football at this particular moment was the furthest thing from my mind," Barnard said. "What a great Christmas present. This just goes to show that you never know what might happen."
Although Barnard claims not to have thought much about the Bears since leaving training camp, he does admit to having followed punter Brad Maynard's statistics quite closely this season.
"Yes, it's true. I have checked from time to time to see how Brad has been doing," Barnard said. "I got to know him some in training camp. I admire his technique. From what I've been reading, he's been having a good season. That's why I was so surprised when my agent told me that the Bears were interested."
Barnard definitely is enjoying the unexpected turn of events. He is working out once more with his former teammates and has been putting in considerable time punting indoors under the watchful eye of Special Teams assistant coach Chuck Bullough.
"This is a great situation for me," Barnard said. "I am getting excellent instruction. It enables me to adjust my punting to be exactly what the Bears are expecting. I've heard a lot about the wind conditions in the new stadium. It will be interesting to see it this weekend and find out how things go there first hand."
Barnard feels that his skills are in leg strength and accuracy. He is confident that his overall physical condition is at an optimal level and feels ready to play should the need arise.
"Really, I don't think that I'll be doing too much for the last two games of the season other than standing on the sidelines and watching Brad play. But this is giving me an excellent opportunity to reacquaint myself with the players and with the Bears system. The real plus is that being here now will give me a much better chance to stick with the team next year."
Since the NFL is not known for job security, Barnard is renting locally until the end of the season. He then plans a brief trip back home to Annapolis, Md. to organize for a possible relocation.
"I'd love to stay in Chicago," Barnard said. "It's a great city with so much to offer I definitely enjoy the lake. Not too long ago, I was thinking of buying a powerboat to keep in Annapolis. If I stay with the team, I'll be looking around for a good marina in this area."
Barnard's future with the Bears could involve playing in NFL Europe, although Brooks hasn't heard anything to that effect so far.
"I'll go wherever they send me. I'm delighted to be here and I'd love to stay with this team."
What if football doesn't work out?
"You know what I've always wanted to be? A meteorologist. I'd like to return to the University of Maryland and get a masters degree. I could be your new TV weather man."