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Mr. Coffee: Redskins coach Joe Barry gets a kick from his habit

ASHBURN, Va. -- It’s not about the perks of the job. It’s about the percolations thanks to a demanding job that requires lots of meetings. And energy. So 10 times a day Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry downs a cup of coffee.

In between, he’ll down a Red Bull or two. A guy with energy already seeks more.

The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg wrote an article about Barry’s energy and talked to him about his coffee habits. That led to a round of are-you-kidding-me calls to Barry.

“You really drink 10 cups of coffee a day?” Barry said friends would ask him. “I’m like, yeah. I’m talking between the time I wake up and noon. That’s a long time. They’re like, ‘That’s still insane.’”

The habit began early in his coaching career. Barry said he had never had coffee until he was a graduate assistant at USC in 1995. “When you’re a young coach and you’re working all night,” Barry said, “you have to find something and someone said, ‘You better learn to love coffee.’” Mission accomplished.

He starts right away. Barry said he’s not up for a minute before he has a cup of coffee in his hands. During training camp, Barry said, he’d drink coffee until noon or 1 p.m.

“I really can’t function before I have a cup of coffee,” he said. “My alarm goes off and regardless what time I get up, the first thing I do is walk over and have a cup of coffee.” He said he notices an energy surge. “I don’t feel like, I’m dragging, I have to get coffee -- like Popeye eating spinach,” Barry said. “But I would not want to try to go through a day without it, saying, ‘Hey, you know what, tomorrow I’m not going to drink coffee and see how it is.’ I’m not going to do that.”

He has his preferences. Barry has a Keurig coffee maker as well as a favorite flavor: donut shop and French vanilla. “I drink it black, I don’t like cream and sugar,” Barry said. “But I’ll go spend money to get quality coffee. I’m a French vanilla guy. That’s my go-to one.”

His wife, Chris, objects. Yes, his wife gets on his case all the time about his habit. That and making sure to stay in shape during the season, an admittedly tough thing for Barry. Early on? Yes, he’ll hit the treadmill hard. As the season unfolds, it becomes more difficult with all the other demands. And, yes, he says he doesn’t have the same energy. The result, he said, is often an extra 15 pounds or so. With the coffee, though, he’s armed with a defense.

“Caffeine is not bad for you,” he said. “It gets a bad rap, but as long as you’re drinking water with it. ... But I don’t get headaches from it. ... I probably lie a little bit when I go to the doctor. I probably say yeah I have three cups a day. But as long as you hydrate with it, coffee’s not that bad for you.”

Water is the obsession. Barry is guessing at the 10 cups a day because he really doesn’t count. But he knows how much water he has: six, 20-ounce bottles a day. “And I pee 57 times,” he said. No, that’s not an official count.

Staying hydrated keeps Barry energetic: He has four active kids, which leads to a lot of hoop games in the driveway or going to various events.

He’s not compensating for lack of sleep. Another area Barry is adamant about involves sleep. The coffee is not a crutch to stay awake, but rather a drink he simply likes. In camp, for example, Barry said he tried to be in bed by 11 p.m. and would sleep until 6 a.m.

“The last four or five years I’ve really tried to force myself to do that. I’ve found you function better when you get six or seven hours. ... I’m adamant about the water and adamant about the six hours of sleep and then I feel pretty damn good.”