Barrett has even impressed himself so far

by Gary Shelton on October 4, 2019 · 0 comments

in general

Barrett has made an impact for the Bucs ./JOE MESTAS

Friday, 2 a.m.

So far, Shaq Barrett has spent a quarter of a season impressing outsiders.

And Shaq Barrett, too.

How can he not be impressed, even if he is the one taking over the game tapes? Barrett has become the go-to player on the Bucs' defense. He has nine sacks, and an interception, and a forced fumble to clinch Sunday's victory. He's been the NFC Player of the Week. He's become one of the most popular players in Tampa Bay.

Also, whee!

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“It’s crazy, it’s surreal," Barrett said." I mean (when) I just think about it. I know that I was able to play and produce, but this level that I am doing it right now is unseen. It’s just crazy. Then everybody is talking to you about it and stuff and it just makes it that much bigger. But, I just want to play football – I just want to keep it down. I know it’s going to come with the way I’m playing, but I just want to play football, keep my mind on football and try to do everything the same way I’ve been doing it – this year anyway.

“This level is ridiculous, like it is blowing my mind as well. I always knew I could play in the league and could produce, but at this rate it is going right now, it is really good. I am very appreciative for my agent. He did a good job. I am coming in here [and] doing a good job playing, so it is just working out perfectly for everybody – for the team, for me. It’s like a match made in heaven right now.”

How crazy is it? It's off-the-charts insane. Look at some of the Bucs' biggest sack seasons. Simeon Rice had 15 1/2 sacks in 2002. He had one in the first four weeks. He had 15 in 2003. He had four in the first four games. He had 14 in 3005.Tthree of them came in the first four weeks. Warren Sapp had five and a half of his 16 and a half in the first month of the 2000 season. Jason Pierre-Paul had four of his 12 1/2 in the first month last year.

Barrett has nine.

So far, his creativity has been a key part of his impact.

“It is – you just have to see what the tackle is doing and be able to work off him to make him do what you want him to do," Barrett said. "Or if he’s not going to do it, you’ve just got to play his game, but there is a way you can win either way. That is why I watch film. If he continues to do what he’s [doing], I’ve got moves in place for that. But I try to get him off his game so I can work my moves, work my game and get him playing my game.”

Over the years, the Bucs have tried hard to bring in pass rushers who made a difference. Only a few -- Simeon Rice and Jason Pierre-Paul come to mind -- have been worth their signing bonus. But it would appear that Barrett is the real deal.

“I came into the league with a bull rush and a double swipe, so I’ve been developing ever since I got into the league – just trying to study film from the guys in front of me," Barrett said. "And then I was on the practice squad, so I was able to work my moves against the starting tackles and stuff. It hadn’t really been until maybe year four or five when I really felt like I developed and I’m ready to really contribute. The roles I was in my first four years, I think that was perfect for me. I wasn’t ready to be a consistent starter, but now I feel like I am ready now and everything is just working out.”

 "I was just watching everybody because everybody looked better than me when they were pass rushing because I only had two moves. I was just trying to develop moves from those guys, and they were very willing to teach. Everybody was an open book. We had times where coach was like, ‘Hey, show these guys how to do these moves,’ or they would just pick it up and take it on their own and show us. That helped me out a lot.”

Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has been impressed.

"Shaq understands the game," Bowles said. "He’s a very savvy player. He understands the game very well, he works on his technique, he’s done a great job against the run, which goes unnoticed – obviously, that sets up his pass stuff. He has an arsenal and a toolbox that he uses and he strives to get better every day and that’s just a credit to him.”

Barrett says he has no superstitions.

“I have no routines," Barrett said. "I do everything different every week. It just depends on how I feel. The (second) week against the Panthers, I missed the Friday (and people were telling me), ‘Hey, you don’t need to practice on Friday anymore.’ But no, practice is really good for me. I need practice. So no, there is nothing I am doing consistently. Just watching film – that is the only thing I am doing consistently.”

Teams haven't started helping out on Barrett yet.

“I’m very surprised that it’s not coming," Barrett said "But that motivates me more like, ‘Alright, y’all are going to keep sleeping? I’m going to go out there and just keep playing the game I’ve been playing.’ Hopefully my numbers keep going the way they are going.”

Bucs' offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said that Winston is improving.

"I know he’s getting better and he’s working on it every day," Leftwich said.
"That’s all we can ask. You don’t want to have this up-and-down flow. You guys see the touchdowns, so now you guys are recognizing – like I said, he’s another guy that’s been getting better right in front of your guys’ eyes every day, and sometimes it takes games like this for people to see it. But for him personally, we’re a 2-2 football team, we’re a .500 football team that’s just trying to get better. We’ve just got to (be) continuously getting better. We’ve got the first quarter of the season done. We’ve got a long way to go before we start thinking of that nature, so we’ve got to go day in and day out, play in and play out, doing what we need to do to put ourselves in the best position to have success, and that’s what our thought process is.

“It’s a guy that worked on his game [and] that’s continuously working on his game. It says a lot about the guys around him – he’s not out there playing by himself. It says a lot about the guys up front, it says a lot about the guys who [are] catching the ball [and] it also says a lot about the guys who we can turn our back and hand the ball off to. We’re just trying to get better week in and week out with the understanding that yesterday is yesterday – we’ve got to continue to get better.”

The Bucs visit the Saints on Sunday at 1 p.m.

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