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Nick Barnett Ready For Triumphant Return


When the Washington Redskins signed veteran linebacker Nick Barnett in July to fill the void opened due to Keenan Robinson's season-ending injury, they knew exactly what they were getting.

Barnett, who spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Green Bay Packers followed by a two-year stint with the Buffalo Bills, is a wily veteran who can spell inside linebackers Perry Riley and London Fletcher when needed and provide no drop-off in productivity.

While he led the Bills in tackles in his two seasons there, he's most remembered for him time with the Green Bay Packers where he helped lead the franchise to its fourth Lombardi Trophy in 2010, and was an All-Pro in 2007.

Now with the Redskins, Sunday's game will mark the first time Barnett enters Lambeau Field as a visitor.

"It will be pretty weird, running out there and seeing all the fans there," Barnett admitted. "It will be a different situation to adjust to.  I've never went in there as a visitor, it's always been home."

Lambeau, which was built in 1957, is unlike any other home field in the National Football League.

As franchises have made decisions in recent seasons to upgrade to larger stadiums with the most up-to-date technology to bolster fan experience, the hallowed grounds have remained the same.

It also is nowhere near a metropolitan area, making it one of the most unique game day experiences across all of professional sports.

"When you're driving in a bus and you see suburbs and farms and then boom, it's a whole new world in the stadium," Barnett said of the typical gameday commute. "It's one of the best environments to play football in, similar to this city.

"There is not much to do except play football and grow your family."

Past the atmosphere of Green Bay, Wis., Barnett knows that there is still a game to be played against one of the NFL's elite.

Despite being three years removed from his playing days there, Green Bay is known to keep its homegrown talent in-house, rarely being a big player in free agency.

Three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Aaron Rodgers and three of his top targets (James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley) were all teammates of Barnett's.

On Sunday, they'll go against each other just like they did hundreds of times during practice.

"He's going to make his places, when you face a guy like that you got to expect him to make plays," Barnett said of Rodgers who has 174 career touchdowns. "And he might even give us some.

"You don't want to give him things like lining up in your alignment, maybe line up somewhere else then line up somewhere else.  Try and make it difficult for him."

Barnett spent years making things difficult for opposing quarterbacks as a member of the Packers, and his head coach Mike McCarthy remembered him fondly.

"Nick was an excellent linebacker for us, an impact player," McCarthy told the media on a conference call. "Our old defense was pretty much built around Nick as the primary tackler and he had a number of great years for us.

"He's a steady, hard worker, tough guy, very explosive. I definitely would feel he'll be a help to the defense."

Barnett did not appear in the Week 1 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles, and has been brought along slowly after recovering from offseason surgery.

Head coach Mike Shanahan said his role is split between special teams and reserve defense.

"The more comfortable he gets with our special teams, the more he'll be put in to that situation," Shanahan said. "But when you have eight linebackers that dress...we just don't want to throw a guy in there to throw him in there just because.

"We brought him along slowly so that he wouldn't have any setbacks with his injury, and I feel very good about where he's at. But he is on a lot of units, mostly second-team, and we will work him in as time goes on."

Either way, Barnett admitted that when it's all said and done on Sunday, he'll enjoy having the opportunity to see his old teammates once again, even if they will be on opposite sidelines.

"It will be exciting to see people I know, coaches and players I know. It will be fun."




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