Barbre lined up with the first team at right tackle as the Philadelphia Eagles opened training camp Saturday. The 30-year-old will get every chance to start in Johnson’s spot during the first quarter of the season.
Two years ago, while he was with the Seattle Seahawks, Barbre received the same letter from the league office that Johnson got in May. He had violated the NFL policy on performance-enhancing drugs and would be suspended for four games. The Seahawks, Barbre’s third NFL team, simply released him. He was out of football for the 2012 season.
“I felt like I could still play football,” Barbre said. “It was just getting the opportunity.”
And that is just a bit harder with a PED suspension on your permanent record.
“I had a workout here [with the Eagles],” Barbre said. “That’s the only workout I had after I was released. It just looks bad."
The Eagles did sign Barbre in January of 2013, shortly before hiring Chip Kelly as their new head coach. Kelly viewed Barbre as just another of the players he inherited.
“We’ve seen Allen every day here,” Kelly said. “We feel like he’s a talented football player. He was really going to be pushing, even if Lane wasn’t out, all those other guys for playing time. When he’s had the opportunity to perform, he’s done a great job. He did a great job in the offseason program.”
One of the possibilities for Kelly would be moving right guard Todd Herremans to tackle, where he has played in the past. But Kelly’s comment suggests that Herremans might have been in danger of losing his guard spot to Barbre before Johnson was suspended. So it makes sense that Kelly would just plug Barbre into Johnson’s spot.
It will still be up to Barbre to hang on to the job. But he is clearly, in Kelly’s view, one of the five or six best offensive linemen on the roster.
“I just want to come out here and do well,” Barbre said. “That’s my plan, just to come out and work hard every day.”
The Eagles signed Barbre to a three-year contract extension early in June. By then, they knew Johnson would be out for four games. But the contract talks predated all that. Barbre had established himself as the primary backup at four of the five offensive line spots.
“For them to show confidence in me to sign me, that shows that they trust me,” Barbre said. “Whether I’m a backup or I’m a starter, I want my team to trust me.”
He said he is most comfortable on the left side, where he played in relief of Jason Peters last season. But he will have the advantage of focusing on the right tackle spot from the very start of training camp.
“I think there’d be something wrong with you if you didn’t want to start,” Barbre said. “That seems like it’s the only option.”