Democrat Sports Reporter
Though he has appeared in almost every game the past two season, Sunday will be different for the St. Louis Rams’ Tim Barnes.
The former Northwest Mustang and Missouri Tiger, who has spent most of his NFL career so far on special teams, will be starting at center following an injury to Rams starting center Scott Wells in the first half of last week’s game at San Francisco. Barnes is likely the first local football player to start an NFL game since Charles Van Dyne started six games for Buffalo in 1925.
Though Barnes has gone through this week getting most of the reps at center, the Longwood native said not much has changed from previous weeks that saw him on special teams.
“Whenever you’re a backup, you’re preparing like you’re going to play anyway,” he said. “It’s just like what happened last weekend, ended up playing the whole second half. What has changed the most is taking all the reps now with the ones, getting all the practice reps and getting all the looks. That helps a lot.”
Barnes went undrafted out of Missouri in 2011 and signed with the Baltimore Ravens as a free agent, but the Ravens cut him a few weeks later. The Rams signed him to the practice squad where he spent the 2011 season. The Rams signed him to the roster in 2012.
“Where I’ve come from and my journey to have gotten to where I am, it’s a big accomplishment of mine,” he said. “It’s a goal that I’ve been shooting for. It’s going to be fun.”
With this chance to step into the starting role comes a lot of work to get ready for it, and Barnes has spent much of this week focused on the front seven the Arizona Cardinals will be sending at him.
“I’m trying to do more and more in terms of film study and watching the guys I’m going to be playing against,” he said.
He also has to learn to work with the other four players on the St. Louis offensive line. He said they have already gotten to the point where they are communicating before plays, during plays and after plays.
“You just have to get used to playing next to each other,” he said. “Some of these guys I haven’t played next to since training camp and we were rotating guys. Communication might be a little different from how Scott did it to how I do it, but it’s not a huge adjustment.”
The man Barnes will be snapping the ball to, Kellen Clemens, spent time as the No. 2 quarterback on the Rams depth chart, so the two are used to the center-quarterback exchange.
“I think it helps me as far as my comfort level,” Barnes said. “I’m very comfortable around Kellen because I played with him most of the time. It’s one less thing to worry about with the QB exchange. We’re used to each other. It’s not something we have to focus on during the week to get used to each other.”
The man Barnes stands in for this Sunday, Wells, has been in the league for 10 years, the past two with St. Louis after beginning his career in Green Bay where he started all 16 games in 2010 and 2011.
“I would sit there and watch Scott in practice and then on film,” Barnes said. “I would watch what he does against certain techniques and looks at what he’s thinking. During meetings, I’ll sit by him and talk to him about what he’s doing. It’s been a real blessing to have him there, he’s been very helpful and he’s very open to helping me.”
Barnes started for three years at Missouri, but as he is getting ready to make his first NFL start, he hopes younger players at Northwest and in Longwood are watching and taking note.
“Hopefully, it gets them excited about sports and for the kids to have a dream and they can reach it no matter what,” Barnes said. “If you want to do something, you can do it. I just want people to realize that if you can dream it, you can do it; you just have to put a lot of hard work in. It’s not easy but it can be done.”