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Buccaneers OLB Shaq Barrett on returning after daughter's death: 'It's a daily battle, a tough battle'

Barely three months removed from the tragic drowning death of his daughter, Shaquil Barrett is at training camp with the rest of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

In some ways, it's the best thing for Barrett, as it serves as a distraction from the daily struggle of coming to grips with the loss of Arrayah, who was just 2-years-old when she died on April 30.

"Yeah, because like this morning it was hitting me hard," Barrett said Monday, via team transcript, when asked if football had aided him with the process. "Getting ready for practice helped me get my mind off of it a little bit just focusing on something else. I've got a lot of time in the day when I'm just in my head thinking about stuff and thinking about her. So having to actually think about what I'm doing right in the moment helps me out a lot and helps the family out a lot when we're doing stuff and trying to stay busy."

Though it's unlikely that he needed one, Barrett has an everyday reminder of Arrayah tattooed on his arm now.

"She loved stars and that's why I got a tribute on my arm to her, a tattoo, that has a couple stars on it," Barrett said. "She just loved stars. Every time we would read, she would be like, 'Star, star, star.' It was just the cutest voice."

Arrayah drowned in a swimming pool at the family home. Officers responded to a call that a child had fallen into a pool, and she was subsequently taken to a hospital where she was later pronounced dead. He was in attendance at Bucs minicamp, but Monday was his first time addressing the media since his daughter died.

Barrett, 30, and his wife Jordanna have three other children and one on the way, the two-time Super Bowl winner said Monday.

"I could go on and on forever and ever about her," Barrett said. "It's just her smile I miss so much, her energy, putting her to bed every night and reading her stories. She brought so much brightness, wholeness and completeness to our lives, and we most definitely have a big, big, big hole in our hearts and our lives that we won't be able to fill. But, we've still got our other three kids that are helping us fill the void a little and then we've got another baby on the way that should help a little bit too, but we know it's never going to be the same without her. It's always sad -- she would have been the best big sister, as well. It's just bittersweet because I know she is in a better place, but I 100 percent prefer her to be here with us, selfishly."

Barrett is entering his ninth NFL season -- his fifth with the Bucs after four with the Denver Broncos.

The two-time Pro Bowler played in only eight games last season after an Achilles tear ended his campaign. With the injury occurring before the tragedy, Barrett sees his ailment as somewhat of a bittersweet occurrence because his time away from football offered him more time with his daughter.

"I'm not happy that I got hurt, but I'm happy that I got to spend all of the extra time with her from being hurt last year," Barrett said. "In hindsight, looking back I'm glad I was able to have all of that extra time with her so I could have more bonding time and experiences with her. She loved all books with stars in it."

Many an NFL player is dealing with bumps and bruises amid sweltering conditions during the early days of training camp. Barrett's dealing with all that as he's coming back from an injury and a tragedy, arising each day with the heaviest of hearts.

"It's a daily battle, a tough battle," Barrett said. "I felt it heavier today than I did the last couple of days. It just comes in waves. We just talk to each other, talk through it with each other and just lean on each other to get ourselves through, and lean on the Lord, as well. It doesn't get any easier. It's just me being busy and keeping my mind off of it for a little bit. It's just tough -- it's always going to be tough."

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