Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from www.purplePTSD writer and editor of purplePTSD and VikingsTerritory, Joe Oberle.
Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr has been in the news of late—for a number of reasons—and none of which are exactly the “oh, that’s great” kind of reasons. He has still not received a contract extension and is weeks away from play on the final year of his contract; his hit on Aaron Rodgers last year that gutted the Packer QB’s 2017 season (okay, that was great) was declared to be an illegal hit if had occurred this coming season; and head coach Mike Zimmer called a press conference to bat away the “rumors” of a potential trade of Barr. All this news for a typically under-the-news-radar type player made a for a curious period last week.
To break a bit of it down, Barr is the last of the prized free agents who Vikings fans (at least) feared might not be resigned when the expensive Captain Kirk (Cousins) beamed into town in March. They resigned linebacker Eric Kendricks, extended defensive end Danielle Hunter, exercised cornerback Trae Waynes’ fifth-year option and last week extended wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Suddenly, Barr was left out alone on un-resigned island and some natives have become restless.
When Barr injured some part of his body on Thursday, Aug. 2 (we don’t know what the injury was because Barr told reporters to ask Zimmer, and Zimmer recited his injury mantra of “I’m not obligated to talk about injuries. I’m only obligated to put out an injury report on the first Wednesday of the season.”) and sat out some of practice. The next day, due to circumstances that are still unknown, Zimmer, who definitely doesn’t like doing all of the pressers he must do during camp, called one and said the following:
“I wanted to meet with you because I was made aware of an erroneous report about Anthony Barr. Anthony is my guy, number one. We are unequivocally not trying to trade Anthony. He’s the first draft pick we ever had with me. He’s helped this defense go from 32nd or 31st, whatever it is, to being pretty good. There’s no, none whatsoever, truth to that rumor. He had a tweak yesterday, and we kept him out of practice for a while. He should be out there today.”
The extreme vote of confidence, while totally believable, came like a bolt from the blue, and as my colleague Luke Braun pointed out, was in stark contrast to how Zimmer spoke of his guy in 2016, when Barr had a down season. The fact that no reporter whom I spoke with could find the source of the Barr trade rumor that Zimmer did, just makes this story a little stranger.
Questioned about the new helmet rule and the fact that the visiting referees said that his hit Rodgers would be a penalty this season, Barr head-slapped the questions away by saying that players have to follow the rules. When asked what his approach would be with officials in an upcoming meeting, Barr answered with his calm and articulate aplomb.
“I think it is good to have some dialogue, to communicate back and forth and ask questions that are necessary” Barr said. “If you have some questions, definitely speak up, write down all the information that you are given, make it a point to absorb as much as you can and apply it when it’s necessary. So, it will be a good meeting for us to have, and I am looking forward to it.”
Throw into the mix of Barr’s spring and summer the fact that he’s been taking more snaps and doing more drill work with the defensive linemen. It’s not something totally new to Barr, but certainly something we’re seeing more of this offseason.
“It’s a point of emphasis that we have tried to incorporate the last few years, and for whatever reason we would work on it and then kind of just back away from it,” Barr said. “But I think it is now more of a conscious thing just to continue to work at it, give offenses a different look, put me in different positions, so hopefully it works out.”
I have said before and repeat here that such a change to Barr’s day-to-day work regimen isn’t something that would necessarily be happening if the Vikings were not looking to resign the fifth-year linebacker. But the fact remains, the new contract hasn’t gotten done yet, and instead Barr watched teammate Diggs get the training camp pay day.
“Very exciting for him; very well-deserving; works very hard,” Barr said of Diggs. “Obviously, a huge part of our team and what our offense does, so no one deserves it more.”
Asked about his own situation, Barr raced past the question as if he were veering around a left tackle with a swim move and heading to the quarterback:
“I have said all I am going to say about that. Like I said earlier, I am going to continue to get better to work and continue to go with this team.”
On Saturday night at the scrimmage, Barr returned to the field and did a little work, but the backup linebackers did most of the work with the first defense. And, according to Braun, Barr did partake in the Monday morning walk through. The “tweak,” it would seem, is not a huge deal, and likely becomes a small side story to Barr’s bizarre offseason.
A contract extension would go a long way to clear most of this up. So, we’ll continue to watch and monitor the curious case of Anthony Barr.