He grew up in South Florida, so naturally, Antwan Barnes had a lot more familiarity with reptiles. Copperheads, cottonmouths and water mocs. Iguanas, 'gators and croc's.
When he got to Baltimore as the Ravens' fourth-round draft choice of 2007, though, Barnes kept hearing about a different sort of varmint. Then the Ravens' defensive coordinator, Rex Ryan since has become known for some of the peculiar stuff he comes up with, but one of his sayings in Baltimore became a sort of mammal motto.
"'Be impenetrable,' he'd say, 'like the skin of an armadillo''" said Barnes. Chuckling, he added, "To be honest, I didn't even know what an armadillo was."
In his three years with the Ravens, Barnes thickened his own skin and refined his specific skills as a pass-rusher. As the Chargers' leader in sacks with seven (of the team's 22), Barnes will play against his former team for the first time since Baltimore traded him to the Philadelphia Eagles at the start of last season.
Barnes would be the first to confirm that Baltimore was a special place to be a defender, especially a linebacker, to play and practice and be in the same position room with Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs and Bart Scott. To rage against quarterbacks and running backs, yes, but also to plug gaps and be accountable.
For more of this story, visit the San Diego Union-Tribune.