Joe Burnett talks lockout life, reporting to Giants' facility
Published: Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 16:07
Joe Burnett has a chip on his shoulder.
After the Pittsburgh Steelers cut him, Burnett was out of football for a year — unsigned and locked out.
Now, with the NFL lockout officially over, Burnett can look forward to playing football again. This time, with the New York Giants. Burnett is out to prove himself as a starting kick returner in the NFL.
"It's just exciting to get back to football," Burnett said. "When I walked in the locker room, it just felt like football and it put a smile on my face. Just seeing guys working out, talking to the coaches, it just felt good to be able to talk football on that caliber."
Burnett is beaming with happiness because of his new opportunity with the Giants. Things were different for Burnett during the lockout, however. Burnett struggled financially and emotionally.
"Everything was tough because you never knew what your next income was going to come from. At one point in time I wasn't signed," Burnett said. "I didn't know where my income was gonna come from. I was calling my agent here and there; I was worried and frustrated because I didn't even have a place to stay when I was back at home."
The lack of income also hurt Burnett's family.
"My mom was struggling at home, and it was like everything was negative withdrawals coming out of my (bank) account," Burnett said. "It took a stress toll on me and I was panicking at one point."
Burnett still found a way to make it work, however. He picked up part-time work as a defensive backs coach at Eustis High School, where he was a former standout.
"They got a win in their spring game and the DBs played really well. After that game, I was with those guys training them," Burnett said. "I held like a two-week mini camp for the DBs every day at 11 a.m. We'd go out there and train and do agility drills. There were a lot of people out there from the community; [former UCF running back] Kevin Smith actually came out there, too. It was a nice turn-out."
Burnett also worked part time at a recreation center.
"God worked everything out," Burnett said. "With coaching (spring football at Eustis High School) and working at a recreation center, I made a little bit of income so it worked itself out."
Along with financial instability, Burnett also ran in to trouble off the field. He was arrested and charged with driving under the influence on March 16, despite passing a breathalyzer test twice. Burnett failed a field sobriety test.
According to court documents, Burnett paid a $311.99 careless driving fine and had to attend an 8-hour traffic school.
Because of the lockout, Burnett was not subject to any discipline by the NFL and is excited to be back on the field and put his past behind him.
"My situation is like anyone else's," Burnett said. "I have to come in to camp and compete and earn a spot on the team …The way I look at it, I'm on the Giants."
The Giants are lacking depth on special teams as well as in the secondary, two areas where Burnett plays. Burnett says he wants to prove himself as a legitimate return threat in the NFL, as well as a defensive force.
"With this opportunity and the fresh start I have with the Giants, I'm looking forward to coming in and contributing and helping out any way that I can," Burnett said.
"I'm coming in with a chip on my shoulder to prove that I am a return guy in this league and I want to establish myself as that. I also want to establish myself on the defensive side of the ball as a nickel or corner back."