The St. Louis Rams lost Scott Wells to a fractured fibula last week, and that forced 25 year old Tim Barnes onto the field for something other than special teams since his days at the University of Missouri. At Missouri Barnes was a three-year starter after walking on to the program. While at Missouri he was selected to the 2007 2nd Team Academic Big 12 and he was awarded the 2009 Team Underclassmen Leadership Award. He was signed by the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent in July 2011 and released in September that year.
Just 10 days later the Rams signed Barnes to the practice squad where he stayed for 2011 and most of 2012. He has played most positions on the line for the punting and kicking units over the last two seasons. Head coach Jeff Fisher has called Barnes an intellectual player with a great understanding of the game who prepares as well as anyone. This week has to have Barnes’ emotions going full steam knowing that he is getting his first opportunity to start at center in the NFL, and he gets to watch his Alma-mater play for the SEC Championship in their second year of being in the conference. Barnes told the Belleville News-Democrat:
“Obviously, the most important thing is doing my job for the Rams. The fan inside also is excited for what Missouri has been able to do. It’s a huge step for the program, and I think I’ll be able to watch most of it before our meetings start. It’s exciting.”
Barnes played 44 snaps against the San Francisco 49ers after Wells was forced out due to the injury. Knowing that he wasn’t a drafted player Barnes is aware that teams don’t have as much time and money invested in him as others on the team. He has worked hard to get where he is at now, and he is certainly deserving of this opportunity even though it came at the loss of a teammate. He practices and plays each game with something to prove and now even more is on the line.
There was one play where Barnes was responsible for a delay of game penalty for failing to recognize how much time was on the play clock. He owned up to the mistake like he should have and took the blame for the penalty. That’s a smart move for a young guy trying to earn his quarterback’s trust. The good news for Barnes and Kellen Clemens is that they have plenty of experience thanks to time on the scout team together over the last two seasons. They will feel comfortable together after a full week of first team snaps at practice in addition to their history.
With Wells getting older Barnes has a chance to earn a shot for 2014 as the team’s starting center. He gets the final four games of the season as a tryout for next season to gain momentum in the coaches’ minds.