Barron focusing on adjusting to different pace of life in NFL
By THOMAS GRANT JR., T&D Senior Sports Writer
The practice days are much longer and the tone at the meetings more serious.
The playbook is more extensive and complex than any other level of football he's competed on since the age of 12.
The players are much quicker, stronger and, in some cases, craftier than ever and the coaches see things through a "win now" mentality.
Just a typical day in the budding NFL career of St. Louis rookie offensive lineman Alex Barron. Just three months after getting selected 19th overall by the Rams, the former Shrine Bowl selection at Orangeburg-Wilkinson and two-time All-American at Florida State has undergone a hard knocks "education" on life in the pro ranks.
"It's been like going back to school," said Barron in a telephone interview prior to a Friday workout. "All the players are reading and studying, but on a whole different level and there's a little bit more urgency involved.
"It's far different (than college). You've got to adjust to certain people with different sizes and different types of agility. It's different because of things you've never seen before. Some people move faster than you think they do. Some people move faster at different heights and weights. It's just something you have to adjust to."
Thrust into the starting right offensive tackle slot — after years of excelling on the left side — Barron has undergone a crash course at the unfamiliar position. At times, the acclimation process has been difficult — as detailed in a story on the St. Louis Rams' website (www.stlouisrams.com), which described Barron getting so "overwhelmed" during the veteran mini-camp to where he was demoted to the second team.
"From the technique standpoint, he is just so far away," St. Louis head coach Mike Martz said. "He has to trust what we are teaching him to do with his pass sets and his punch and his arms. Until he can get consistent with that, it's going to be pretty hard. He was a great athlete who got by on athleticism. His technique was horrible in college."
Martz's blunt assessment notwithstanding, Barron has managed to maintain an upbeat personality and quiet demeanor despite the strenous on-the-job training.
"I'm a rookie like all the other rookies," he said. "The fact I had to change positions had some weight on it. It's just part of the transition that I've got to try to make and then I'll be ready to see what's going on.
"I've been OK. There were some passing schemes that I had to get used to. Different drills. There were different techniques and a few other different things that were different from college."
Rams' offensive line coach John Matsko has served as a mentor early on for Barron and has stressed playing with patience and letting the blocking schemes come naturally.
"There's certain things you've got to let come to you and certain things you've got to go and get," Barron said.
Making the mental adjustment to the NFL has been just as challenging for Barron as the physical side.
"It's a little bit more tougher mentally on and off the field," he said. "There's a mental security about what you're doing and how to do it."
Barron also got a learning experience about the NFL from attending the ninth annual Rookie Symposium. The four-day orientation, required for all NFL draftees, included presentations, videos and workshops about the operations of the NFL and addressed such topics as personal finance, life skills, personal conduct, life as a rookie, media policy, substances of abuse, personal experiences, family issues, player development, football operations, NFL security, success in the NFL and life after football.
"I picked out a whole bunch of different hints about life, life after football," Barron said. "Keeping in your head, it's a business."
Barron's agent, Roosevelt Barnes of Maximum Sports Management, is still negotiating with the Rams on what's expected to be a lucrative contract for the second offensive lineman taken in this year's draft. For now, Barron's focus is mastering the Rams' blocking schemes.
When he's not holding off veteran defensive linemen Leonard Little and Tyoka Jackson in practice, Barron is sometimes squared against fellow T&D Region rookie Vontrell Jamison of Holly Hill. Although he and the former Clemson University defensive lineman are first-year players, Barron said he and Jamison rarely run into each other.
"We play two different sides of the ball and only get to interact in certain parts of practice," he said.
A former T&D Region Super Bowl champion anxious to "break" Barron into the NFL is defensive lineman Chartric Darby of the NFC West archrival Seattle Seahawks. The former North High and South Carolina State standout signed this past spring with the Seahawks, who will meet the Rams twice this season.
"I'm looking forward to playing somebody from the hometown," Barron said.
"He's a great player. A great competitive player. He's a heck of a lot more experienced than I am. So, if we cross paths, it will be both of us out there trying to work to get a win and it will be a good matchup."
On Monday, Barron will get to soak in the adulation from the Garden City as part of the "One of the Kind" celebrations taking place at O-W starting at 2 p.m. It's a moment Barron admits he never envisioned "in a million years" happening when he first suited up to play football, but will very much appreciate.
"I'll just be taking it all in and accepting it as a blessing," he said.