It's easy to see why the Green & White added T.J. Barnes and his 6'7", 364-pound frame to the practice squad last October. After all, you can't teach size.
"When I came in last year, it was like, 'OK, cool, practice squad. Let's go destroy the offense,' " the 24-year-old nose tackle said.
Barnes wreaked enough havoc to earn himself a reserve/future contract by year's end, but sheer mass will only get you so far in the NFL.
"This year, it's been more than just going through the motions," he said. "I have to learn the plays now and really understand the system so that when training camp starts and it's all full speed, I'm ready to go."
Barnes knows that mastering head coach Rex Ryan's defensive scheme will be a prerequisite in graduating from the practice squad, and the Georgia Tech product soaked in as much as he could during OTAs and minicamps in an effort to do so.
We all have our preferred learning styles, though, and T.J.'s no different.
Photos of the New York Jets third day of Minicamps.
"The biggest challenge for me is I hate watching," he said. "That's where you gain a lot of knowledge because you're learning from other people's mistakes and it improves your own habits. But I always like playing."
If learning from observing is Barnes' No. 1 challenge, eating healthy is a close second.
"I *love *candy," he said with a grin, "Lifesavers especially. But I needed to lose weight for my health and because the coaches wanted me to play lighter and faster, so I went on a diet and lost 25 pounds since January."
Cutting out candy was only part of Barnes' weight-loss secret. He also had a month of juicing and several weeks of the "caveman diet."
"If a caveman couldn't eat it back then, I wasn't allowed to eat it, either," he explained.
Barnes is banking on the fact that his improved fitness and sharpened mind will lead to an increased performance on the field and, eventually, a spot on the 53-man roster.
Buried behind Damon "Snacks" Harrison and Kenrick Ellis on the depth chart, it'll be a challenge for Barnes to rise up past the practice squad. But after conquering candy and showing patience from the sideline, it's nothing he can't handle.
Until then, "It's cool just being around the guys," he said. "I think they're starting to take to me a lot, a little bit more every day, and just being with them, it's always funny. Somebody on the D-line always has a joke to say off the field. On the field we're still joking and laughing but it's business and we take our jobs very seriously. There's no place I'd rather be."