Emotional Barnett

While starting middle linebacker Nick Barnett was subject to the fans' scorn for his recent penchant for celebrating his tackles, no matter the score, Barnett's thoughts were preoccupied elsewhere.

Barnett returned to Green Bay in the wee hours Thursday after attending the funeral of his father, Leonard Powell. The 79-year-old Powell died Dec. 4 at age 79 due to liver cancer.

Barnett kept the family tragedy under wraps until after the Philadelphia game. It was in that game in which Barnett drew many jeers after emphatically celebrating a tackle while the Packers were five touchdowns behind in the second half.

He was booed again, this time by the fans at Lambeau Field, for his hearty reaction to a tackle while the Packers trailed by double-figures in the first half against Detroit.

Barnett — noting how his father's death led to his especially inspired play the last two games — hopes the fans go easy on him during Sunday's regular-season home finale against Jacksonville. But he says he won't change his ways.

"I don't know the fans situation. I just play football, and I try to have fun because I love the game," said Barnett, who recorded a season-high 14 tackles against the Lions. "So I'm just going to keep doing what I do and keep doing what my defense wants me to do — that's to have fun and be aggressive."

Packers coach Mike Sherman hopes the fans will consider the circumstances before judging his second-year linebacker and team leader in tackles.

"I'm sure there was a lot of emotion, a lot of energy that he was exhibiting," Sherman said. "Nick is a good man. I'm glad we have him on our team. He's a good person, has high character. He got a little beyond himself in the game (with the celebrating), but we'll pull him back in a bit."

Meanwhile, Barnett is happy to be back with the team, hoping football can take his mind off his personal life.

"It helps me to think less of what is going on at home and just be able to come and focus on football," Barnett said.

Barnett says he'll be focused on the task at hand, and that's slowing down the Fred Taylor-led Jaguars rushing attack, despite the circumstances.

"I can't really ever get away from football," Barnett said. "It was to some degree (while in California). But I've been excited to come back and play and get ready to get focused to play Jacksonville."


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