THE CANADIAN PRESS
OAKVILLE, Ont. -- When adversity rears its ugly head in Jason Barnes's football life, he doesn't have to look far to gain proper perspective.
The Toronto Argonauts receiver bares a tattoo of a heart with angel wings on the left side of his neck featuring the phrase, "Never Give Up." But the significance of those words is real: Barnes got the tattoo for his mother, Ann, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2007 and succumbed to the disease less than a month later.
So when life as a pro athlete presents Barnes with a hurdle, he need only look in the mirror to understand football is passion, it's not what defines him.
"I got it for my mom to keep fighting and that's something I live by every day," Barnes said. "Just a reminder there are bigger things than football.
"This is a game I love to play for a profession and everything but at the end of the day it's just a profession. There are bigger things to worry about than that."
Unfortunately for Barnes -- who has just 29 catches for 400 yards and four TDs -- it's a mindset he's had to put to the test this season.
|Barnes heating up|
After being released and added to the practice roster mid-season, Jason Barnes has put together a strong bid to stay in the lineup, gathering 11 receptions for 150 yards and 3 touchdowns in his last three games.
» Jason Barnes' Stats and Bio
The 28-year-old California native signed with Toronto in the off-season, reuniting with quarterback Ricky Ray, his teammate for three seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos. The expectation was Barnes's familiarity with Ray would help him become the Argos' No. 1 receiver.
But that didn't happen as Barnes had just one touchdown catch through Toronto's first eight games. Then last month the Argos released the six-foot-three, 190-pound receiver after he recorded just 18 catches for 250 yards, before adding him to the practice roster shortly afterwards.
Barnes returned to the Toronto starting lineup Oct. 14 for a 24-12 home loss to Montreal, registering three catches for 37 yards. He had four receptions for 71 yards two weeks ago in a 44-32 home loss to Winnipeg, with a career-high three touchdown grabs.
"I got rejuvenated, I had a little bit of time off," Barnes said. "I was mentally exhausted, I wasn't making plays I normally would ... I had the chance to re-focus and come to work.
"I just had to step back. I got my body back right and took my mind from all the stress and everything I was dealing with daily. I took a trip home to see the family and came back ready to go."
Ray shouldered part of the blame for Barnes's slow start. The quarterback said it took him time to get used to new head coach Scott Milanovich's offence.
"It took us a while to really have that kind of game together, that's what we both kind of expected would be early in the season for us," Ray said. "Some of it was me early in the season missing him on a few things but it was nice to get him back into a rhythm.
"He's such a good teammate, being off the starting lineup for a few weeks and then coming back and playing a game like that was awesome."
Despite Barnes's struggles this season, Ray never felt the need to pull his teammate aside and offer encouragement or timely words of wisdom.
"I think sometimes it's awkward to talk about stuff like that," Ray said. "We all understand what's going on and you know he's a good player and will sort things out himself and he doesn't really need me coming up and giving him a pep talk.
"I mean, if it was something that really needed to be said but I knew he'd be fine and (would)keep working hard so I didn't feel the need to say anything. He's the same guy, he just deals with it, comes to work every day and works hard."
Overcoming adversity is nothing new for Barnes.
|2||Blue Bombers||DE||Mulumba, Andy|
|3||Alouettes via EDM||LB||Edem, Mike|