FOXBOROUGH — The injuries kept coming, one by one, a seemingly never-ending stream of maladies for safety Josh Barrett.
He had two shoulder dislocations at Arizona State. Another shoulder problem got him waived by the Broncos in 2010. And, after a promising start to last season with the Patriots, a calf strain put him on season-ending injured reserve.
But as difficult as it may sound to move beyond the injuries, to forget the ailments of the past while still pushing yourself through brutal training camp sessions, Barrett is trying.
“I’m just thankful and grateful and very blessed to be in a position to even be out here playing right now,” Barrett said. “So I’ve got that mentality, just working hard each day.
“It’s feeling good. I’m going out there. I’m doing everything I can to maintain it feeling that way.”
It’s a feeling Barrett has felt little of throughout his NFL career. After being drafted in the seventh round by Denver in 2008, he had 32 tackles in 20 games over two seasons. Through much of 2009, his shoulder bothered him, and the injury flared up enough during the 2010 preseason that coach Josh McDaniels, now New England’s offensive coordinator, announced an imminent move to the injured reserve.
The Patriots pulled something similar to what they did this offseason with ex-Giants tight end Jake Ballard. While Denver waited on Barrett to pass through waivers before placing him on IR, New England snatched him up.
He saw action in five games last season, including four starts, and had 12 tackles. But he missed three games with hamstring and thumb injuries, losing his starting spot to James Ihedigbo in the process. Barrett left the Week 9 24-20 loss to the Giants in the fourth quarter, and was shelved for the season shortly thereafter.
“That’s your job, to be in shape,” Barrett said. “You take pride in that, you have to make sure you maintain a peak physical condition. Whenever you’re injured, you want to get back onto the field as soon as possible. Really, just having that mentality to get better as soon as you can.”
The Patriots have eight safeties on the roster: Barrett, Ihedigbo, Patrick Chung, Sergio Brown, Nate Ebner, Steve Gregory, Ross Ventrone, and Tavon Wilson. Will Allen also played safety during offseason practices, and could slot in at free safety.
Chung, Gregory, and Wilson are virtual locks to make the team, which likely leaves Ihedigbo and Barrett to battle for the fourth spot. Both have received special teams work in the early going at training camp, and the competition suits Barrett just fine.
“Yeah, ton of it,” Barrett said. “Everywhere we go. It’s a competitive camp, but that’s how it should be, and I’m looking forward to it. Everyone thrives off it at this stage in the game. You know what you daily requirements are.
“We’ve got so many guys, and Pat’s a big part of that, the leadership guys on this team, guys you can really rally behind and see how they work, see how they go about it each day, and how they make the team what it is.”
As the de facto leader of a unit that lost Brandon Meriweather entering last season and ranked last in pass defense at the end of it, Chung spoke after Tuesday’s practice about the need for collaboration among the DBs.
When asked about the most important thing he has worked to improve on this offseason, Chung said teaching.
“Being a coach on the field,” he said. “They give us the information, and we’ve got to execute. It’s good to have a couple guys out there who can think like coaches, direct traffic, let everyone else be on the same page.”
“We’ve got a couple smart guys. We’re all in the same room, we’re learning the same things. We help each other in the film room, so when we come out here on the field, the communication is still the same. We’re working constantly, regardless of whether it’s out here or sitting in chairs.”
Barrett did more than enough sitting in past seasons. Now is the time to work.Alex Prewitt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.