But when tragedy strikes — like it did Saturday morning when 30 service members were killed in Afghanistan, including 22 Navy SEALs — Barnes can't help but pause and reflect upon the sacrifice that so many Americans make for their country.
"That's sad," Barnes said of Saturday's events. "I'm still a service member at heart. I still want to see those guys. Those are still guys that I went to the [Naval] Academy with, SEALs, Marines, everything. Those are still guys who went through the same things that I did, whether they went to the Academy or not. We're still one team, one fight. Even though I have a Patriot uniform on, I'm still a service member at heart, so that's something I definitely cherish and want to make sure they're safe."
Barnes caught a glimpse of the news earlier in the day, but he hasn't had time to stay up to date on current affairs since starting training camp. Because of the long hours he spends every day at Gillette Stadium, he said he hasn't even turned on the television at his hotel.
Interestingly, when Barnes was an active member in the Navy, they all wanted to ask him about his status as a member of the Patriots. Now that he's with the Pats, they all want to know about life in the Navy.
"A lot of guys want to know kind of what I did, where I was," Barnes said. "People want to know if I killed anybody and stuff like that. So I get those quick questions. I explain what I did, but I just want to kind of — not put it behind me, but I want to let them know, yeah, I did that, but now I want to focus on football. I want to move onto the next part of my life while cherishing that."
Barnes also had a bit of a flashback Thursday when a group from the USO attended the Patriots' practice session. After, Barnes met with a group of them and signed a bunch of autographs — joking that he skipped over the Army guys — and shared his story with them.
On the field, Barnes has done his work to keep up. It's been a challenge, as he's been out of the game for two years, but he has done an admirable job to hold his own.
"As of right now, my goals are really day by day," Barnes said. "I just want to come out each day and get better. If there's a play I didn't know the day before, I want to make sure I know that plus another play the next day. At the end of the day, my ultimate goal, hopefully, is to do what I can do to be at a point where I can help the team."