After Thursday night’s game in Green Bay, Derek Barnett told reporters he wasn’t trying to make a dirty play. He wasn’t trying to injure Packers running back Jamaal Williams.
The Eagles say they believe him.
“Derek’s the type of guy who is going to play through the whistle,” Eagles DL coach Phillip Daniels said. “And I thought on that situation right there, that he was playing through the whistle. It’s hard to hear out there on that field sometimes. I just told him to be smart. At the same time, I don’t think he’s the kind of guy that goes out there to try to hurt anybody. He’s just doing his job and playing through the whistle.”
Playing through the whistle is one thing, but Barnett has to be careful not to earn a reputation. If the Eagles are to be believed, he shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
“I know the first play, Derek is running to the football on a pass play,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “We put a lot of emphasis on guys running to the football, and he's going in trying to get the ball out. He's trying to get a fumble. He's not targeting anyone. He's going in trying to get the football. We want guys hustling. We want guys trying to get that.”
Some thought Barnett deserved to be ejected from the game, but he wasn’t. He stayed in and even had a huge strip sack later in the evening. And, according to ESPN, Barnett is not expected to be suspended for the hit. But you can bet a fine is coming his way.
While Barnett didn’t necessarily lead with the crown of his helmet, this was clearly a helmet-to-helmet hit. And there’s really no place for it.
Last season, Barnett had just two penalties — both offside calls — in six games.
But through four games in 2019, Barnett has been penalized five times for 40 yards. Just five players in the league have been flagged more. And two of Barnett’s penalties have been for unnecessary roughness — one on Thursday and one on this blindside block (all the way left on your screen) following an interception in Week 2.
One of the things the Eagles love about Barnett is his relentless motor. He rallies to every ballcarrier. On Thursday, that meant putting a hit on Williams just after the whistle sounded. Based on the TV broadcast, it seemed like Barnett had begun to initiate the hit as the whistle blew. Still, it was a scary and unnecessary hit that landed Williams in the hospital.
The good news is that Williams will be OK. He has a concussion but avoided what could have been a truly devastating injury. For what it’s worth, Barnett apologized to Williams as he was being stretchered off the field. If you take no solace in that, I understand, but Barnett isn’t known for being a dirty player. At least not yet.
“I tell him not to slow down,” Eagles defensive captain Malcolm Jenkins said. “I think the one thing that makes Derek special is he plays every play with one speed and that’s full speed. That’s how you’re supposed to play the game. Some things happen in this game. It’s a violent sport. I just tell him don’t change anything about his game.”
Barnett has played 206 snaps this season (he has played well, by the way), so to look at two of them and worry about his gaining reputation might seem premature. But because of Barnett’s playing style, he’s going to be rallying to ballcarriers late and he’s always going to play through the whistle. That’s who he is and that’s a good thing.
Barnett just needs to be careful.
Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.