Barnett booed at home, road for celebrations

Updated: December 12, 2004, 11:58 PM ET
Associated Press

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Green Bay linebacker Nick Barnett says there's a valid reason for his highly emotional play and celebrations that have drawn criticism both home and away the last two weeks: He's honoring his father who died of cancer Dec. 4.

Nick Barnett

Barnett was criticized last week for celebrating a big play while on the wrong end of a blowout at Philadelphia, and he was booed at Lambeau Field on Sunday after he celebrated his second-quarter sack of Joey Harrington while the Packers were trailing Detroit 10-0.

Barnett said he was surprised to get booed at home.

"My defense, they want that from me. They want to get excited, too. The fans, all I can say is, work with me a little bit," Barnett said after the Packers pulled out a crucial 16-13 win.

Asked if he felt it was a residual effect for his showboating last week, Barnett said: "I can understand last week. What you've got to understand in that game is my father had passed on Saturday before that game. So, I was just being excited trying to make plays for him.

"So, I'm sorry, but I had to get excited and make plays for my family."

Leonard Perry, in his late 70s, died in Barstow, Calif., Barnett said.

The Fox television commentators on Sunday speculated that Barnett's emotional play, which they said was almost to the point of jeopardizing his team by inviting penalty flags at times, was due to critical reports last week about his dearth of sacks (two despite 97 blitzes in the first 12 games).

But Barnett, who led the Packers with 14 tackles for the second straight week, said it was all about honoring his father, whose funeral is Tuesday.

"It's been a long week for me, just trying to stay focused out here and trying not to think about it and just trying to honor my father and just playing hard," Barnett said. "I know he would be watching the game right now -- he is watching the game right now. So, I've just got to honor him by playing hard and just keep making plays."

Barnett, the Packers' top draft pick last season, said his dad introduced him to football when he was young and had no interest in the sport, "so, really I owe everything to him as far as football."

He said his father was diagnosed with cancer last summer. The illness weighed on him all season as Barnett tallied just 69 tackles before the Eagles game.

Barnett said he thought his father was "79 going on 80."

"He never told me his age his entire life," Barnett said. "He always acted young. I thought he was 50 for 23 years, I swear to you. I was like, 'Man, when are we going to get those senior passes for the movies? And he's like, 'I'm only 50.'"

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press