Barbre Has Mindset To Improve, Compete


The second half of last year's regular-season finale against Detroit provided the Packers coaching staff with its first extended look at rookie guard Allen Barbre in game action.

He made a good early impression, locking up Lions linebacker Paris Lenon to help clear a path for Brandon Jackson's 46-yard run down the far sideline on the first snap of the third quarter.

"He showed when he got a chance to play the reason why he was drafted here," offensive line coach James Campen said. "He's a good athlete and has some explosiveness to him. He had a couple on the backside of run plays where he took defenders down 8, 10 yards on drive blocks. There were good things in there."

Yet when Barbre is asked about that outing against Detroit, he doesn't talk about Jackson's run, nor any of his other solid blocks. Though he didn't feel as overwhelmed as the raw Division II prospect he was in training camp six months earlier, even lined up across from a seasoned pro like Detroit's Cory Redding, Barbre wasn't about to say his first extended game action constituted his "arrival" in the pros.

"I think I'd come a long ways from the preseason," said Barbre, drafted in the fourth round out of Missouri Southern State last April. "But I don't really think of one play when I go back to that game. I more or less think of the mistakes I made."

That response says a couple of things about Barbre. First, to him that game last Dec. 30 already is ancient history, hence the positives and negatives in the performance won't matter much as he tries to thrust himself into a full-fledged competition at guard this season. He'll be up against other young but more experienced teammates in Jason Spitz, Daryn Colledge, Junius Coston, and perhaps Tony Palmer, depending on his recovery from a neck injury.

Second, it shows Barbre's focus is less on what happens than what he needs to do to improve, and that's a healthy approach Campen believes will serve him well in his second season as he tries to make up for his lack of game experience and compete for a starting job.

"Self-evaluation is very important," Campen said. "You have to be honest with yourself, recognize mistakes, and then be able to put them in a place so that you can then improve on the mistakes. You can't let the mistakes fester and bother you so much where it bogs you down.

"But you have to be very aware of them. You want players that recognize, 'Hey look, that is a mistake, I need to get it fixed.' That's important."

Equally important is that Barbre smooth out those rough spots - things he called "reaching for my guy, taking the wrong step" - as much as possible during the drills, film study, and one-on-one work with his coaches during the offseason program.

Barbre arrived on Monday to get to work along with the other first- and second-year players. But while he perhaps has the most to gain as the youngest of the guards in the mix, Spitz, Colledge, Coston, et al, are still young enough to make significant strides in the offseason as well.

"It's imperative that they take advantage of this, all of them," Campen said. "During the season it's difficult at times to give individual detail and attention, just because of time constraints. Now, we have the time. It's very important for them to come in, they can watch film on their own, everything is accessible for them. To have this time is huge."

In an otherwise stable starting lineup, the guard position was by far the most unsettled for the Packers in 2007. Due to both injuries and performance issues, the Packers used five different starting guard combinations in the regular season.

{sportsad300}Having now gotten through at least the initial transition from Division II to the NFL, and the switch from his college position of tackle to guard, Barbre will be better prepared to compete for what the Packers hope to be more solidified spots in 2008.

"You know what to expect, you know the ropes, you don't have that uncertainty of what's going on," Barbre said. "I think that will make a big difference. I feel like I know the offense pretty good, and I don't have to learn the whole thing over, so I think that will be good."

Campen said Barbre's biggest improvement as a rookie came in his awareness, recognizing and reacting to defensive schemes and stunts, protection adjustments and the like. That progress was evident on a weekly basis in the written tests the offensive linemen take regularly during the season, and on the practice film.

In Year 2, continued improvement is expected, the amount unknown. As a willing learner who accepts coaching, according to Campen, Barbre's future is up to him. The opportunity is there.

"It's a clean year," Campen said. "I tell the guys there is a starting point, of a group that goes out as a first group, but every player that was a starter before or wasn't, they're all in competition for a starting spot, and Allen's certainly in that group. The best players will play."

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