Former Pirates: Kaelin Burnett

By: Tim O’Brien
Pirates Writer
August 4, 2021

WORCESTER, MA – Former Massachusetts Pirates defensive lineman Kaelin Burnett has been through it all during his career. He has experienced football in multiple different ways and on multiple different levels, and there are not many indoor football players that have the resume of Burnett, playing in the NFL for three seasons. He played for the Oakland Raiders during the 2012 and 2013 season racking up 12 total tackles and a forced fumble in 22 games played. In his final year in the NFL, playing for the Tennessee Titans, Burnett appeared in just five games with three total tackles. He would then transition to the Canadian Football League (CFL) but will never forget his years in the NFL.

“It was a great experience. I mean, some of the best times of my life,” said Burnett. “Just being out there and being able to compete with some of the best of the best and being able to go out there on Sundays. It was really the best feeling in the world. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else besides seeing the birth of my daughter.”

Grateful for his time in the league, Burnett decided to make the transition to indoor football after his time playing for the Edmonton Eskimos and Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL. He signed with the Spokane Empire in early 2017 before eventually signing with the Pirates later in 2017. Contrary to popular belief, the transition from outdoor football to indoor football is not as easy as it seems, even for a former NFL player.

“To be honest, people would say ‘since you played in the NFL, it should be easy to convert to playing inside,’ but it’s not as easy as people think,” said Burnett. “It’s very fast inside and every step that you take, it counts. Getting to where you need to get to, whether it’s a defensive end getting to the quarterback or a receiver running his route, every step matters in arena ball.”

The fast paced environment of indoor football is a difficult adjustment for any player, but especially for a NFL and CFL veteran who has played the outdoor game a lot longer than most indoor football players. Burnett was happy to take on that challenge and he definitely overcame that challenge during the 2018 season playing in 12 games and totaling 20.5 tackles, four tackles for loss, one sack, one interception, two fumble recoveries, and a blocked field goal. He did it all and made a large contribution to the eventual number 1 seed Pirates. Unfortunately, the Pirates could not get the job done in the playoffs that year, but Burnett still thoroughly enjoyed his time with the team.

“I enjoyed every moment,” said Burnett. “That was my second year playing arena ball so with it being a start with a new organization, you wonder how things are going to shake out because a lot of first year franchises don’t really shake out that well but we ended up having a hell of a year that year.”

After this success with the Pirates, Burnett returned to the outdoor game, joining the Arizona Hotshots of the Alliance of American Football (AAF) before the AAF ceased operations a few months later. After that, he was selected by the Houston Roughnecks of the XFL in the 2020 XFL Draft. The league got some football in before the league suspended operations due to COVID-19. However, these unlucky instances did not stop Burnett’s hunger to keep playing the sport he loves. He plans on playing football again at a high level no matter what the role is.

“Right now I’m just staying in shape,” said Burnett. “I actually just had a workout with HUB football, that’s run by Tom Brady’s agent. A select number of players can go out there and it was about 50 of us out there… So I plan on playing this season somewhere. That’s the plan but my last time, I was with the XFL and I was with the Houston Roughnecks before that had shut down due to COVID. I really don’t have any stat goals. I’m really a team guy and I really just go out there as needed. When I came there, they had me playing defensive end and they also needed me at linebacker, so I was able to stand up and play the Jack position. Just wherever is needed. I’m not one of those guys that’s too good for any position. I consider myself a hybrid. So wherever the team needs me, thats where I want to be. You know, I’ve got a few more years left in the tank so I want to just end my career on a bang.”

Burnett’s focus is fully on football at the moment and he is working extremely hard to get back to the game. His willingness to play any role and be there for his team no matter what the situation is just shows how selfless he is as a person and as a player. He is a team-first player with a strong passion for the game.

“When the lights turn on. That’s what we prep for all week,” said Burnett. “We prep for that moment right there, just making that big play, the camaraderie and being around the guys. That’s one thing that you miss when you’re not playing ball. You kind of take it for granted and take it lightly when you have it and when you don’t have it anymore, it’s like ‘I miss just being around the guys.’”

The Massachusetts Pirates are members of the Indoor Football League (IFL). The Pirates play all home games at Phoenix Field at the DCU Center located at 50 Foster St. Worcester, MA, 01608. For more information on the Massachusetts Pirates please call (508)452-MASS (6277), email or visit Single game tickets are available now at or the DCU Center Box Office. For 2022 season, half-season, luxury, or group ticket packages please call 508-452-MASS (6277). Follow the Pirates on Facebook via, Instagram @mass.pirates, and Twitter @mass_pirates. #GetHooked #AllAboard