Eskimos' Burnett back to rookie status

Despite his experience in the NFL, Eskimos DB Joe Burnett is considered a rookie in the CFL. (Perry...

Despite his experience in the NFL, Eskimos DB Joe Burnett is considered a rookie in the CFL. (Perry Nelson, Edmonton Sun)

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:59 PM ET

Joe Burnett is a rookie all over again.

If you can call a 25-year-old with legitimate NFL experience a rookie, that's what the Edmonton Eskimos defensive back is considered, coming into the 2012 CFL season.

After spending last season on the practice squad, Burnett now finds himself taking over Jykine Bradley's place at cornerback with the responsibility of patrolling the bigger side of the field.

"Personally, I don't consider myself a rookie, but it is funny," said the five-foot-10, 192-pound native of Florida, who was a first-team all-American at the University of Central Florida before being drafted in the fifth round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. "Being that I come from the States and played in the NFL for a couple of years, now I'm over here still soaking up everything I can, learning the rules and stuff like that.

"I don't like to consider myself a rookie."

Burnett played 15 games with the Steelers before spending time on the New York Giants practice squad in 2010. Last season, he skipped through the Arena Football League and landed in Edmonton, but was never activated.

But that all changed in 2012 training camp, where he went relatively under the radar. Just the way the Eskimos like it.

"Joe is not being talked about a lot, which is good for a defensive back," said head coach Kavis Reed. "When they're being talked about, it's either one extreme or the other: he's made a huge play or he's getting beat.

"For Joe not to be talked about right now is a good thing."

Not that Burnett is incapable of big-play making. He's already proven it with an 80-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Calgary Stampeders in the preseason.

While it helped him secure a starting role on the Eskimos, it also served notice to opposing quarterbacks who will scour game film on the new-to-the-CFLer.

"I'm sure quarterbacks watch DBs and see where their weaknesses are Ñ then again, I'm not sure," he said. "Being a rookie, a lot of quarterbacks might try and throw the ball my way, so it goes both ways.

"The years you play in this league also help."

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

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