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Kenjon Barner gives Falcons fans plenty of reason to embrace him

The Falcons’ return specialist spoke with The Falcoholic about sticking up for his teammates, not taking himself too seriously, and more.

New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

People had plenty of jokes about Matt Ryan taking a brutal stiff arm after a turnover against the Saints on Thanksgiving. Kenjon Barner was having none of it.

Barner took to Twitter to defend his teammate while maintaining his sense of humor in the process.

Barner spoke with The Falcoholic after Wednesday’s practice and shared that he doesn’t mind the criticism, necessarily. He just thinks folks should be sure they know all of the background before commenting.

“Fans look at the game from a fan perspective, and that’s OK, but don’t comment on something that you really don’t know anything about,” Barner said. “Until you can break a play down and tell me everything that went wrong during the play and and why Matt either didn’t get the ball out on time, why he was sacked — whatever the case may be — break the play down and give me some valid information and I can respect your opinion.”

Every play on the gridiron involves 22 different players; 11 on each side of the ball. An interception isn’t always all on the quarterback’s shoulders. That context is important.

“Instead of saying stuff like that, just tell me something valid, and I’ll respect your opinion. I’ll respect whatever it is that you’re saying. I’ll respect that,” Barner said. “But when you just come with, ‘Oh, he sucks. Get rid of him,’ tell me why. ‘Oh, did you see the play?’ Tell me why he threw the pick. Tell me why he got sacked. Did the o-line do their job? Did the running back do their job? Was the receiver — was the timing right? Did the receiver get jammed? Did that throw off the timing? Tell me.”

Matt Ryan isn’t having his best year statistically, but over the course of his career, he’s been exceptional for Atlanta. The 2016 NFL MVP is clearly a franchise quarterback, but that hasn’t stopped fans from saying he sucks, he’s overpaid, and he should be cut.

“Give me something about the play rather than saying Matt sucks,” Barner said. “And then, OK, we can have a conversation.”

Barner doesn’t just hold fans to this standard. He holds himself to this, also.

“And that’s just me in life. I’m never going to speak on anything that I don’t have a good enough understanding on to have a conversation about,” he said. “I’m never going to comment on soccer — I don’t understand soccer enough to comment on it. I’m never going to comment on golf. I don’t know enough about it to make a comment and say somebody sucks when I can’t do half of the things that those people do.”

Barner’s been a great addition for the Falcons’ return game. He scored the first return touchdown of his seven-year NFL career in Week 11 against his former team, the Carolina Panthers. That was special for Barner.

“It was a blessing. It was an amazing feeling being back where it all started for me with special teams, because that is the first team that gave me a shot at this NFL thing,” Barner said.

If you’re thinking Barner gave the Panthers a little bulletin board material with that comment — he didn’t.

“So for it to be back in Carolina where it all began, it was special to me — not that it was against the actual Panthers, but for it to be back where it all started for me,” Barner said. “So it was special, man, and then to be able to celebrate with these guys who go out and do a hell of a job for me every single day, every game, for it to pay off like that, it was special.”

Falcons fans have to remember one of Barner’s most infamous moments from last season — that brutal hit punter Matt Bosher laid on him during a return.

Barner’s sense of humor was on full display afterward.

Barner said he just can’t take himself too seriously.

“Football’s too serious to be serious. DeAngelo Williams used to say that all the time, and that’s something that’s stuck with me,” he said. “I don’t take myself too seriously. I don’t think I’m that great of a player that something like that should never happen. If you play this game long enough, you’re going to get got by somebody. So I don’t take nothing personal. I don’t take anything too serious. If you play this game, you’re going to get hit.”

That doesn’t mean he was thrilled about getting blown up by a punter.

“Now, you don’t want it to be a kicker. Don’t get me wrong,” he said, laughing. “But it happens, and it happened to me. So I don’t take myself that serious to where I’m going to get in my feelings about something that happened, be mad about it — it’s football. It happened. What are you going to do?”

Barner’s just on a one-year deal, but he’s fourth in the league for punt return yards this season. Because of his talent, along with his sense of humor and team-first attitude, don’t be surprised if he sticks around.