Plenty was written and said about the Green Bay Packers’ perceived need at inside linebacker.
Sam Barrington wasn’t among those reading or listening to the conversation.
“I’m smart and I read but I choose what I read,” Barrington, a high-character, hard-hitting performer, said on Thursday, the final day of the team’s minicamp. “It’s not like I’m reading books on underwater basket weaving. It’s about what you choose to read. That’s what determines whether you’re smart or not. I just don’t choose to indulge myself into all of those things because there’s a difference between football on the field and football from an enjoyment perspective. That stuff is just for the fans’ entertainment. It’s not reality sometimes. Whether a three-down linebacker is in the Packers’ needs is reality, that’s not what I’m saying. That’s not my job to read that type of stuff.”
Barrington was slated to be that three-down inside linebacker last season. Coming off a strong finish to the 2014 season upon replacing A.J. Hawk in the starting lineup, Barrington sustained an injured ankle during the season-opening win at Chicago. His season ended with one tackle in less than one quarter of action.
Coach Mike McCarthy, taking a cautious approach with all of his injured players, elected to hold Barrington out of all nine weeks of the offseason program, which culminated on Thursday.
“I’m very eager,” Barrington said. “One thing I’ve learned to make sure you maintain and make sure you focus on is your emotional intelligence when you’re dealing with an injury because there’s a lot of ups and downs. With that being said, I’m definitely looking forward to training camp.”
While last season’s premature conclusion was a major disappointment, the offseason was filled with honors. He was the Packers’ nominee for the prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year Award and the Ed Block Courage Award. He also received a Humanitarian Award from Pop Warner Football and a community service award from the Green Bay Chamber of Commerce.
On Friday, he departs with receiver Jared Abbrederis, outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott and team President Mark Murphy, plus alumni LeRoy Butler, Robert Brooks and Sean Jones, on the Packers’ annual Tailgate Tour.
“You know what? It’s not hard,” Barrington said. “Being a role model, it’s not necessarily about doing everything perfect. It’s embracing it. It motivates you to continue to walk righteously. Whether I mess up, whether I do something wrong, I know where my heart is and it’s by having a good heart. Kids love you because you have a good heart. They also love you when you’re doing something they idolize. I’m just going to continue to be the man I am. I’ve been a role model since I was a younger kid because I had younger siblings who looked up to me. Even when I’m finished playing football, I’m going to continue to hold that because I’m going to be a righteous man. That’s my focus. And I love people. I love people. With this world, you really have to invest in people. Not things, not places. But if you invest in people, we’ll be all right.”
Being a role model is a big deal, Barrington said. That’s why he’s so involved in the community, whether it’s hosting football camps or donating 335 backpacks of healthy food to students at a school in Milwaukee.
“You have a platform. Some people totally abuse that platform. Shame on them,” Barrington said. “Some people, we just choose to say, ‘You know what? I’m going to take this platform and I’m going to multiply it.’ That’s all I’m doing. I’m trying to multiply it. The money will be gone one day, the things will be gone one day. You won’t be able to play this game anymore but your name will live on.”
Being a great guy in the community is all well and good, but the Packers need Barrington to be an impact player on the field. He was just that in 2014, helping the Packers reach the NFC Championship Game. Barrington started the final five games of the regular season, with Green Bay going 4-1. With Barrington on the field, the Packers allowed 0.83 fewer yards per carry.
“My focus is to continue to grow as a player,” Barrington said. “When it’s time to play the game, the best players will be on the field. Whether I’m that guy or not, it’ll be judged on if I’ve prepared myself the right way.”
Barrington will handle his end of the bargain.
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “I’m no marshmallow. I’m like a rock. I’m like a burned piece of chicken. Not that it’s burned and it’s ruined, but it’s hard and you can’t penetrate it, you don’t want nothing to do with it. Know what I’m saying?”
Yes. Loud and clear.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.