ALAMEDA – Khalif Barnes has played nine snaps at left tackle in the last four seasons. Before 2009, that’s all he played.
It’s increasingly likely the veteran offensive lineman will go back to his roots Sunday against Indianapolis. Menelik Watson missed Thursday’s practice after tweaking his knee on Wednesday, leaving Barnes as the next best option.
The transition isn’t ideal, but Barnes is ready for it.
“Khalif and I spoke after practice and he was optimistic and felt good about making the switch,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “If Menelik is not ready and we go another way on Sunday, Barnes is ready for that challenge.”
Barnes came into the league as a left tackle, and had several good seasons protecting the blind side in Jacksonville. Still, switching sides of the offensive line isn’t exactly like riding a bike.
“It felt kind of good to get back into it, but when you’ve been doing a right-handed stance for so long, that’s what your body is used to.
“It’s kind of like when you put your shoes on, and if you have a left-footed shoe and you put your right foot in it, you’re like, ‘Damn, something ain’t right.’”
If Watson can play, Barnes can easily switch back. If the rookie tackle can’t go, Barnes considers the week’s practice enough time to get back in the flow.
“You want more time to prepare, but you have to step up when called upon,” Barnes said. “I’ll step right in and take care of business.”
If a strange twist, Barnes' last start at left tackle came with Tony Pashos playing on the right. Pashos was signed on Monday and will play right tackle Sunday if Watson is ruled out.
“Tony’s a pro,” Barnes said. ‘He brings good experience and a level of toughness to our depth. He’s been a good addition, and he will be ready if called upon.”