FOXBORO, Mass. — Playing for Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots clearly isn’t for everyone. Sure, a player like Cassius Marsh is easy to dismiss, but Darrelle Revis is an example of a great, hard-working player who simply wasn’t into life in Foxboro.
Christian Barmore lies on the other end of the spectrum.
The Patriots traded up in the 2021 NFL Draft to select Barmore, a defensive lineman out of Alabama, with the 38th overall pick. The Philadelphia native was considered a first-round talent, but nevertheless slipped to the second round, with rumored maturity concerns playing a role.
So far, the Barmore pick has been a home run — a grand slam, really — for the Patriots. The 6-foot-4, 310-pounder has earned a consistently large role — almost unheard of for a rookie in a Belichick defense — and arguably has been the best player not named Matthew Judon on the defensive side of the ball. He ranks second to Judon in quarterback hits (five) hurries (25) and total pressures (31) and has played the most snaps this season of any Patriots defensive lineman.
Barmore’s size and talent have much to do with his success, but so, too, does his growing relationship with Bill Belichick. Earlier in the season, Barmore indicated he prefers Belichick’s coaching style to that of Nick Saban’s, a point he reiterated Tuesday — without being prompted.
“I just love the work ethic, because every day we work, grinding,” Barmore said when asked why he enjoys playing in New England. “And every day, we’re just here to get better. You know what I’m saying? They say Coach Saban and Coach Belichick are the same. It’s totally different. Here — it’s just more. I love it.”
Barmore then was asked about the differences between Saban and Belichick, two close friends considered among the very best coaches in football history.
“Coach Saban — it’s just, if he want to talk to you, he’ll come talk to you,” Barmore said. “Bill, he’ll come talk to you every day, especially if you need something.”
Barmore added: “I ask him advice, Coach Belichick. Coach Saban, (Alabama players would) ask him advice sometimes and certain times. But with coach Bill, he be with us all the time. That’s what I was saying. (We talked about) staying vertical (when rushing the passer). … It helps me every day.
“That’s why I’m playing how I’m playing. He made me comfortable.”
Additionally, Barmore’s personality, work ethic and toughness (he’s battled various injuries since training camp) all have made him a great fit in Foxboro. The rookie’s teammates always smile when talking about his “goofy” demeanor, a label Barmore willingly embraces.
“I’m a real goofy guy,” a chuckling Barmore said Tuesday. “You know what I’m saying? I’m a real goofy guy. I come with the energy every day to have fun and be a team player for everybody.”
All of this adds up to a player that Belichick clearly is fond of. He’s had nothing but great things to say about Barmore — especially after the Nov. 7 win over the Carolina Panthers — and continued doing so Wednesday morning.
“He tries very hard to do whatever you tell him to do,” Belichick told reporters. “It’s different at this level. It’s different keys, different things to do in certain situations, but he’s done a good job of adapting to those, and if you tell to do something, he definitely tries to do it. I really appreciate that about him. He’s gotten better on all three downs. He’s improving every day.
Belichicked added: “He works hard. He always goes hard. You never have to tell him to pick it up. He always goes at a good pace and works hard. He’s got good energy. Loves football. Loves to play. We’ve got to enjoy that.”
That’s not normal praise from Belichick, especially for a rookie.
Defensive line coach DeMarcus Covington recently said Barmore is doing more following than leading, which is normal for a rookie and perfectly acceptable with teammates such as Lawrence Guy and Deatrich Wise in his ear. But as the season has gone deeper, the 22-year-old has become more of a tone-setter, at least publicly.
“That’s what people don’t understand,” Barmore said after New England’s banged-up defensive line gutted it out last month against the New York Jets. “We had a lot of pain, we played through that. … And we come in the game and dominate like that, everybody on the D-line. That was just motivation to everyone on the team.”
Those kind of remarks will endear Barmore not just to his teammates and coaches, but also to Patriots fans. His mentality on and off the field is as impressive as his in-game production.
“I ain’t never have no doubt,” Barmore said Wednesday when asked whether he expected to handle NFL offensive linemen at such a young age. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m humble and all that, but them guys gonna feel my pain. … I ain’t gonna be a regular guy that they play against.”
Barmore recently has seen more double teams, a clear sign of opponents’ respect for him. And that probably is the correct strategy.
“It’s good for our team — if I get two, somebody get one ,” Barmore said. ” … But if they give me one, they gonna feel my pain.”