Barnett Welcomes New Helmet Speaker


LB Nick Barnett chats on the sideline with assistant head coach Winston Moss during a game this past season.

Head Coach Mike McCarthy said earlier this week that Nick Barnett would be the most likely member of the Packers defense to wear the helmet with the newly approved radio receiver this season.

And the middle linebacker welcomes the change, if for no other reason than to help level the playing field between the offense and defense during a game.

"I definitely think it's a great thing, due to the fact that offense has that in their helmet and they can hear the coaches and they don't waste any time trying to figure out what each signal is," Barnett said.

"That stuff is hard to do when you're tired and it's the fourth quarter and you can't find the coach through the crowd. I think it definitely will eliminate some communication problems as far as what the calls are, and open up lines of communication when we're on the field."

The league's owners approved the new helmet speaker for a defensive player at the NFL annual meeting in Palm Beach, Fla., this week. The measure passed 25-7, despite a "no" vote from the Packers, which McCarthy explained was an objection not to the purpose, but to some uncertainty surrounding the "mechanics" of the system.

The one-way device will operate much like the one the quarterback has on offense, with a coach able to communicate with the player from the time the 40-second play clock starts until 15 seconds remain, or until the snap, whichever comes first.

"That's a long time," Barnett said. "A lot of times the ball is snapped with 12, 13 seconds (left), so the coach can be talking to me as they're lining up. It's going to be interesting to see what's going on."

Barnett believes the biggest difference the helmet speaker will make for him is when the defense faces an offense that is constantly substituting players. Rather than trying to get a feel for who's coming in and out of the game while trying to decipher hand signals from the sideline, Barnett said he'll be able to watch the substitutions and just listen for the call in his helmet.

"When you have the offense playing around with their personnel, and then they come in right at the last minute, and the coaches are trying to give you about seven different hand signals, it's hard to get all those signals before they're lined up," Barnett said. "So as they're running out, playing around with their personnel, we can just get it right through our headset and it will be a lot easier."

{sportsad300}All the scrambling around that can occur during a two-minute drill could be simplified as well. Even though there's limited, if any, substituting during a two-minute or no-huddle situation, the players on the field can all simply look to Barnett for any scheme or alignment changes on the fly, and there's less chance of a miscommunication with a defensive coach talking directly to Barnett.

"If there is a change, now it will be able to come straight through the helmet, and everybody will know that if it's coming from me, it's coming from the sideline," Barnett said. "I'll be the straight line of communication and everybody will know what it is."

As for any potential drawbacks, Barnett said he expects to encounter some as he and the other players and coaches get used to the new system. But he expects to get those all ironed out during training camp and the preseason games, so everything runs smoothly come September.

"I'm a little worried if the coach is going to be yelling in my ear if I make a bad play or something," Barnett joked. "But I'm definitely looking forward to it. Going through years and years of taking the hand signals from the sideline, sometimes that gets confusing. Being able to just communicate and hear what it is, it should make the game a little easier as far as that goes."

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