Darian Barnes likes — no, loves — to hit people.
Put him in any situation on the field, in pass coverage, on special teams, blocking for the running back, or running the football himself, Barnes, a fullback, will do what he knows best: lower the shoulder and deliver a crunching blow.
"I really, really like to do it. I like to hit people," said Barnes. "It's kind of a staple, a mark that I want to keep when I leave this game. I want people to know that I'm going to bust you in the mouth."
So far in training camp, Barnes has developed an MO as a "thumper." Players know precisely when they are being hit by the fullback.
Last Thursday, when asked to compare Barnes with fullback Stacy Tutt, head coach Eric Mangini acknowledged Barnes' physical play.
"Darian is more of a big stick," said Mangini. "He'll thump you. I'm not saying Stacy won't thump you, but you're pretty much guaranteed that Darian will."
One Barnes "thumping" victim in practice was linebacker Bryan Thomas. During 11-on-11 drills, Barnes was split out wide. When quarterback Chad Pennington dropped back for a pass, Barnes cut back across the tackle box, lowered his shoulder and delivered a momentum-stopping hit on Thomas, who was blitzing from the other side on the play.
Barnes, signed as a free agent from Miami in March, has been admired by his new teammates, especially the running back corps, for his blocking ability. He recognizes blocking as an important part of the relationship between a running back and his fullback.
"Your running back has really got to trust you," said Barnes. "You're the last line of defense for your running back. If something goes wrong ahead of you, you've got to make it right so that he can see where the hole is at and see where he's got to go. A running back has really got to trust his fullback. His fullback has got to be like his personal bodyguard. You got to make sure that no one hits your guy."
Barnes will reprise his role of personal bodyguard to Thomas Jones, whom he shared the backfield with in 2003 as teammates on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"He's kind of a perfectionist." Jones said of Barnes. "He's really critical and hard on himself. Anytime you have a guy like that, you expect good things from him."
Barnes was "thrilled" to hear such a compliment from a player as esteemed as Jones, considered to be one of the hardest-working players on the team.
"One thing I'd say is that I try to do what is necessary for me to get the job done, no matter what it is, if it's going down and blowing somebody up or if it's making sure the defender stays away from Thomas or anybody else for that matter," said Barnes. "I'm honored that he thinks I look at my job that way."
Barnes has delivered some of the heaviest hits so far in training camp, but he cannot wait for the opportunity to hit someone not wearing a green Jets defensive practice jersey.
"You have no idea," said Barnes. "As far as I'm concerned I'm not going to hit anybody else better than the guys we've got out here. All these guys work hard and I come downhill and everyone out here is fighting every day. It's a hard camp with hard people. It'll just be nice to go out there and put that punishment on somebody else for once."
The fullback position in the NFL is not by any means a glamour position. Outside of Tampa Bay fullback Mike Alstott, there aren't many household names playing the position.
But Barnes isn't worried about making a name for himself on offense. He'd just as soon lay someone out in front of his running back to allow him to score.
This makes him a great fit in Mangini's system as a player who is defined by his selfless play on the field.