RENTON — J.T. Barrett didn’t take a snap during a team session Sunday in his first practice with the Seahawks, a day after having been signed by Seattle generally viewed as nothing more than a “camp arm’’ needed for as long as Geno Smith is sidelined.
It’s a fate that might seem particularly humbling for a player who left Ohio State holding 39 records, including wins (38), and was named the offensive MVP of both the Cotton and Fiesta bowls along the way.
But in barely more than a year in the NFL, Barrett has already endured a dizzying enough of a ride that he insisted Sunday all he feels is grateful for another chance to be on the field.
“It’s always an opportunity,’’ said Barrett. “It’s a great opportunity here, watching this organization from afar and growing up understanding the great staff they have and the family environment. It’s just another opportunity to get better and learn each day. That’s how I approach it.’’
And as Barrett also said, “You just never know what’s going to happen.’’
Barrett, certainly, didn’t anticipate what’s happened since he played his last game at Ohio State, where he was a three-time All-Big Ten QB.
He not only went undrafted but also initially unsigned as an undrafted free agent, instead agreeing to attend the New Orleans Saints’ rookie minicamp on a tryout basis before then being offered a contract before the camp actually began.
But working behind Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill offered a tough road to make the roster and Barrett was waived in the cutdown to 53, which then kick-started a merry-go-round of its own.
The Saints wanted to keep Barrett around on their practice squad, but also had other depth issues at other positions they needed to address as the season wore on.
That led to the Saints releasing Barrett from the practice squad and then re-signing him to it 11 different times during the regular season and postseason.
“It was definitely different,’’ Barrett said.
But he said he also understood his role and decided to look at the positives of it — specifically, a chance to watch Brees up close.
Asked what he learned from Brees, he responded, “How long you got?’’
Being waived again by the Saints on Aug. 1, though, finally sent Barrett looking for another opportunity.
He said the Seahawks called early last week, apparently after the team learned that Smith would need surgery to remove a cyst in his knee.
Smith had the surgery over the weekend and coach Pete Carroll reiterated Sunday that Smith may make it back for Sunday’s game at Minnesota.
“He’s determined to come back and play against Minnesota,’’ Carroll said.
Sunday, Smith stood to the side along with Barrett and watched as Paxton Lynch got all the backup reps behind Russell Wilson.
Barrett took part only in individual drills, happily throwing his share of passes to receivers.
And if Smith comes back quickly, Barrett may not be around long.
But Carroll insisted the team wants to take a legitimate look at Barrett as it attempts to sort out its backup quarterback position. And the 6-2, 225-pound Barrett seems to fit the Seattle mold, having set Ohio State career records for both passing yards (9,434) and rushing yards by a quarterback (3,263).
“J.T. is a guy who we’ve always been aware of,’’ Carroll said. “We’ve watched him and known that he’s out there and looked for opportunities maybe to get a shot. Not knowing what’s going to happen with Geno for this week, we needed insurance going through the week, for one, and into the game, as well. So we’ll see what happens. He’s played in the big time, he’s a leader, he’s real smart, he’s got a strong-enough arm. I just like the kind of guy that he is — he’s a QB. He’ll jump in here and we’ll see what he can do. We’ll check him out.”
And Seattle’s backup QB situation remains far from settled.
Smith has been the presumptive favorite due in large part to having more experience (31 career NFL starts to Lynch’s four).
However, Lynch (11-15 for 109 yards passing and 38 yards rushing) had the better statistical game against Denver than did Smith (3-9 for 58, 21 rushing), though Carroll acknowledged the obvious caveat — Smith had to play a few series against elite Denver defenders such as rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb.
“Well, Geno went against their best guys and he had a couple edge rushes that were pretty noted,’’ Carroll said. “He dealt with a little more pressure. Paxton, on the other side of it, just really flowed well in the game. He made good decisions. He pulled the ball down and ran a couple times really well. Shows you his movement for a (6-foot-7) guy. It’s unique — it’s what made him a first-rounder. He made some great throws, also. He had a really good first game. I was really fired up for him. That’s the best he’s looked.”
Getting more of the backup reps this week will give Lynch that much more of a chance to make his case.
But therein lie the scenarios that potentially make the signing of Barrett mean more than might appear at the moment. The Seahawks would seem unlikely to keep three quarterbacks on their 53-man regular-season roster given Wilson’s historic durability. And Smith doesn’t have practice squad eligibility while Lynch does. But there are no guarantees Lynch would clear waivers to be able to return to the practice squad, especially if he continues to play well.
So, if the Seahawks can’t keep both Smith and Lynch on the roster in some capacity when the regular season begins, there could well be a role for Barrett on the practice squad, if nothing else.
For now, he’s just hoping he might get a chance to be on the field Sunday at Minnesota even if it means lots of long days and nights this week studying the team’s playbook.
“It wouldn’t make sense to prepare like you are not playing,’’ Barrett said. “If your number is called you’ve got to be ready, so I’m going to approach it that way.’’