New role for Barnett with Redskins

RICHMOND, Va. -- During his 10 NFL seasons so far, linebacker Nick Barnett started all 139 games in which he played. He knows that this year with the Washington Redskins, things will be different.

With iron man London Fletcher and youngster Perry Riley in front of him at inside linebacker, Barnett might not start a game for Washington this year, but he is still very glad to be with the Redskins with whom he signed on Aug. 1.

"I'm here to help any way that I can, whether it's a starter or whether it's coming off the bench," said Barnett, who's expected to step into the backup role behind four-time Pro Bowl pick Fletcher that opened when Keenan Robinson tore a pectoral muscle on July 25. "Whatever role I take on ... I'm going to take it on with a full head of (steam). I'm going to try to push London. I'm going to try to push Riley ... My goal is to get on the field somehow."

Barnett, 32, was not able to work out for teams when the free agent signing period began in March because he was recovering from cleanup surgery on his right knee. He picked Washington because of his familiarity with its defensive scheme -- having played in Green Bay under linebackers coach Bob Slowik -- and because of its status as the defending NFC East champion.

"It's almost like if you spoke Spanish for two years and then you stop speaking (it) and then you go back and read the book, you go, 'Oh yeah, I remember those words,' " said Barnett, who was frustrated by spending his past two seasons with downtrodden Buffalo after eight years with the powerful Green Bay Packers.

"I wanted to be a part of a successful team. It was a couple of teams I talked to earlier in this free agency, but just not the right fit. I don't want no more 6-10 seasons. I want to go to a winning team."

The 6-foot-2, 228-pound Barnett took the roster spot of running back Tristan Davis, who told coach Mike Shanahan on July 31 that he was retiring after spending all of 2012 on injured reserve.

"Losing a guy like Keenan (Robinson), we don't have the depth we had before and the experience that we had, so I expect Nick to come in and get in football shape," said Shanahan, whose Redskins lost last year's top reserve inside linebacker, Lorenzo Alexander, to Arizona in free agency. "When he's in football shape, we'll get a chance to play him. If that's in a preseason game, that would be great. We're going to look at him day by day, see how he looks in individual drills, get a lot of mental reps in walk-throughs and in our team situations, and when he's ready to go and ready to practice, then we'll practice him."

Barnett has been credited with 1,026 tackles, 42 passes defensed, 20.5 sacks, 12 interceptions (two for touchdowns), six forced fumbles and seven fumbles recovered.

Until Barnett is ready to challenge them, veteran special-teamer Bryan Kehl and Roddrick Muckelroy, who got into just five games the past two seasons, are the leading backups to the 38-year-old Fletcher and the 25-year-old Riley.

Team correspondents for The Sports Xchange contributed material for this story.