Michael Barnett wanted to say “thank you” this week to everyone, for everything at every turn.
The former Georgia defensive lineman finally got the call he had been waiting for, praying for and holding his breath for last Thursday: an opportunity to sign a free-agent deal with the New England Patriots.
Barnett passed his physical Sunday and was with the team practicing on Monday, taking part in the Patriots’ fourth and fifth fully-padded practices of fall camp in Foxborough, Mass.
“It has been a crazy process for sure,” said Barnett, who like so many others had his Pro Day wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic. “It has been frustrating at times, but I’ve just tried to be patient and continue to train and stay ready for the next opportunity.”
So here it is, all those 5 a.m. wake-up calls in Seattle, where Barnett had been training at state-of-the-art Ford Sports Performance in nearby Bellevue, Wash., are finally paying off.
It might be a long shot for an undrafted free agent like Barnett to make the 53-man squad. But physical, determined two-gap nose tackles like him don’t grow on trees, and this former Bulldog is eager to make his dream come true.
“I’m grateful to the Patriots organization for giving me a chance to show that I belong in the NFL,” Barnett said. “It’s truly a blessing, and I’m excited to learn from some of the best coaches in the game.”
Indeed, does it get any better than New England head coach Bill Belichick?
Barnett, like so many others around the country, had his Pro Day workout wiped out on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Had Georgia held one, it’s a good bet Belichick would have been there, as he has talked about the respect he has for Kirby Smart’s program.
“I think Kirby’s program is excellent to prepare guys for the National Football League,” said Belichick, who selected UGA players Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft and signed center David Andrews as a free agent in 2015.
If Barnett has a strong enough camp, he does indeed have a shot at making the 16-man practice squad, if not in New England, somewhere else.
Teams have had interest in Barnett since April, but the NFL’s various COVID protocols prevented teams from bringing in unsigned free agents until the past couple of weeks.
Barnett’s focus is on the moment and task at hand.
But the popular fan-favorite was sure to take the time to thank his family and the Georgia fans before hitting the field.
“I’m thankful to have such a great support system around me, everyone has been positive and helped me stay focused,” Barnett said. “My family, my friends, my agency ,former teammates and DawgNation, I’m truly thankful.”
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