J.T. Barrett just left the New Orleans Saints—and perhaps the best mentor a young quarterback can have.
What did Barrett learn from Drew Brees?
“How long you got?” Barrett said Sunday, chuckling.
Me? I’ve got plenty.
But Barrett? Time is something the former record-setting quarterback at Ohio State may not have much of with the Seahawks.
Barrett signed a free-agent contract Saturday with Seattle; the Saints released him Aug. 1 after his one season plus seven months of this year with New Orleans. He practiced for the first time with his new team Sunday, wearing jersey number 6 in the 12th practice of Seahawks training camp.
Barrett is here because Geno Smith, the former starting quarterback for the New York Jets and Giants, is out for at least a week. Smith had a cyst removed from his knee Friday. That was one day after he started the Seahawks’ preseason-opening win over Denver,
For one day, Seattle had just two passers on the 90-man preseason roster: Russell Wilson as the undisputed, franchise quarterback, and Paxton Lynch. The former Denver first-round pick outplayed Smith Thursday against the Broncos.
To save Wilson’s and Lynch’s arms for this week of practices, the Seahawks reached out to Barrett. That was at the beginning of last week, around Monday, when they first knew Smith would need a procedure following the Denver game.
Barrett said he had workouts with multiple other teams. He valued Seattle for what he knew was its success most of the last decade, and what around the league is known as its family environment.
“It’s always an opportunity,” he said. “And it’s a great opportunity here.
“It’s just, you are behind a little bit, as far as the learning curve and how everything works here and the offense, and things of that nature. So, with that, you approach it the best way you can. I feel like I am a smart individual playing quarterback, so I’m able to grasp things quickly. So with that, I am studying hard to be able to catch back up.”
Quickly enough to play for the Seahawks Sunday in Minnesota, in the second preseason game?
“I think so,” the two-time Big Ten champion and only three-time captain in Ohio State’s storied history said.
“Look, I’m going to prepare. If they call my number, I’m going to be out there. There hasn’t been much conversation (between him and the Seahawks about Minnesota). But it wouldn’t make sense to come out and prepare like you are not playing, you know what I’m saying? You just never know what’s going to happen. If your number is called you have to be ready. So I’m going to approach it in that way.”
Thing is, Smith was on the practice field Sunday, moving around though not practicing. Coach Pete Carroll said Smith is pushing to play this weekend.
“Well, he’s out here moving around already. So the next day, he was OK,” Carroll said. “It wasn’t a ligament or cartilage repair. This was something else. He had a little cyst in there that they had to work out. They got it.
“His recovery could be even before the next game, which is great. We’ll see. It’s probably pushing it. He’s determined to come back and play against Minnesota.”
The clock is already ticking on Barrett. He’s got full practices Monday, Tuesday, Thursday (following an off day) then Friday to show Carroll and the Seahawks all he’s learned from Brees. And what he’s got for Seattle.
“J.T. is a guy who we’ve always been aware of. We’ve watched him and known that he’s out there and looked for opportunities maybe to get a shot,” Carroll said. “Not knowing what’s going to happen with Geno for this week, we needed insurance going through the week, for one, and into the game as well. So we’ll see what happens.
“He’s played in the big time. He’s a leader. He’s real smart. He’s got a strong-enough arm. I just like the kind of guy that he is. He’s a QB.
“He’ll jump in here and we’ll see what he can do. We’ll check him out.”
Barrett has got to learn more than a new playbook. Seattle’s is a completely different way of quarterbacking than what he had while going on and off the Saints’ practice squad with 23 different transactions last season with New Orleans.
“I mean everybody has the same concepts. It’s just understanding the language of things,” Barrett said.
“With the Saints, it was a lot of drop-back passing. There wasn’t a lot of movement. Here, with Russ, there’s a lot of movement in the pocket, and so with that I think that’s the biggest different. Just being able to move in the pocket or staying on the move, in the naked (bootleg) stuff that they have is probably the difference. With the Saints, it was drop back.”
That, of course, is the difference between the elusive improvisation of the 30-year-old Wilson and the exacting, on-schedule playing by the 40-year-old Brees.
So, back to what the 24-year-old Barrett has learned from Brees, the Super Bowl 44 MVP, 12-time Pro Bowl passer, two-time NFL offensive player of the year and league record holder for career completions, most seasons leading the NFL in yards passing, most 400-yard passing games, most 300-yard passing games, highest completion percentage in a season and more?
“One of the main things is being consistent in your routine,” Barett said. “Obviously, you know, he’s going to be in the Hall of Fame. The routine that he has each and every day, he trusts it. He believes it. Whether it was good or bad, as far as the result of practice or a game, he sticks with that routine. Just believing in it and that trust, I think that’s how great players approach the game.”